After most every election there is the ritual hand ringing and soul searching, recriminations and denunciations — I hope that is kept to a minimum this cycle. There is always room for a better campaign and yes the Tea Party and national GOP can create a challenging environment for New York Republicans, but none of those factors were central to the outcome of this year’s Mayoral election.
If there was ever a Seinfeld campaign, a campaign about nothing, this was it. Nothing – meaning there was no one issue animating the electorate, just the singular nagging feeling that it was time to shake things up. Kind of like Yankee fans felt with Joe Torre, four championships simply weren’t enough – the truth is we are a greedy, demanding, impatient and fickle bunch. After 20 years of near miraculous GOP leadership of City Hall, the time had come for a change.
That’s not to discredit the de Blasio campaign, which was, in a word, inspired. Bill de Blasio presented New Yorkers with an aspirational vision of how they want to see their city and how the bulk of the people that “do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this” town, want to see themselves – tolerant, optimistic, family-oriented, fair, fun and solidly middle class.
And moreover, de Blasio’s policy prescriptions appealed to our better angels if not always our common sense.
While we support the safer streets that come from Stop and Frisk, we don’t want innocent young black men up against a wall. While we want lower taxes, we all deep down in our heart of hearts, feel the rich can probably chip in a few more bucks. And while we still cling to the promise of the American Dream, we all fear it may be slipping out of reach for our kids. The de Blasio campaign, through one of the singular most effective ads ever, tapped into all that and more. “Morning in America” had been updated, made a lot more hip (as if I know what that is) and relocated to Park Slope. Joe Lhota simply never had a chance.
When apprising this election. the phrase, with all due respect to Mayor Bloomberg’s public health efforts, “fat, dumb and happy” comes to mind. Problems that once seemed supersized, today appear bite-sized. Despite New York City’s real challenges, it is in the midst of a renaissance. Crime is the lowest in a generation and for all the talk of inequality, opportunity still exists. Thanks to a succession of great to good leadership, New York City is an unrivaled urban success – envied around the world.
Two terms are enough, three terms are too much and five terms is officially overstaying your welcome. Like the brother in-law who moved into your basement or your kid who moved back in his bedroom after college – they get on your nerves. The GOP – Bloomberg years provided a continuum of responsible leadership that will be hard to match – but it was just time to go, time to get the hell out.
The campaign is over and New Yorkers are a demanding bunch. Congratulations Mayor-elect de Blasio and set your alarm clock because turning those aspirations from compelling ads and populist ideas to a positive reality is a tough task.