On a cool spring night in 1990, this author and his father were driving back from a New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium in the notorious South Bronx. When we made a wrong turn and went through a tunnel, our father rolled up the windows, locked the doors and told this author to look straight ahead. As we emerged from the tunnel, out came a squeegee man rubbing the car windshield with a rag and demanding money. This was the New York of high crime and urban decay, when Times Square was filled with porn shops and peep shows and the subways were covered in graffiti. This was the Old New York.
In 1993, Rudy Giuliani defeated incumbent Mayor David Dinkins by running on a platform of law and order and cleaning up New York City. The new mayor’s ‘broken windows’ theory of law enforcement brought a dramatic decrease in petty and violent crime, cut the city’s embarrassingly high murder rate by 73%, and jumpstarted the cities’ revival. Today, Time Square is corporatized, thriving, and clean. It feels like the center of the world.
After winning the mayoral election in 2001, billionaire Michael Bloomberg maintained Giuliani’s broken windows polices. The crime rate continued to fall and New York remained a safe, well run city. Bloomberg was reelected in 2005 and 2009. By law, Bloomberg could not run for a fourth term and growing red/blue urban/rural divide of the preceding fifteen years had eviscerated the Republican Party in most American cities, especially New York. In 2013, the GOP nominated the lackluster Transit Authority chief Joe Lohta for mayor. The way was clear for a Democrat to win a mayoral election for the first time since 1989. The Democrat Party field was crowded but had a clear front-runner, Representative Anthony Wiener. The seven-term Brooklyn Congressman had made a name for himself giving impassioned speeches on the House floor and was known for his combative style on cable TV news. Wiener was a staunch liberal and a fighter. More importantly, he was married to Huma Abedin, the twenty-year personal assistant to, mentoree and confident of Hillary Clinton. Weiner was a major cog in the Clinton centrist, corporatist machine. But, in 2013, as the primary season began, Wiener self-destructed in a stupid and hilarious sexting scandal, clearing the Democrat field.
Into the breach stepped Bill De Blasio. De Blasio had long been a player in New York City politics, first as a campaign operative and manager, later as a city councilman, and finally as the city’s Public Advocate. De Blasio is a man of the hard-left, part of the Democrat Party that never accepted the broken windows theory of crime and accused Giuliani of using the NYPD to crack minority heads in the name of law and order. In the 1980’s, he went to work for the Catholic left Quixote Center, a self-described ‘social justice’ group. In this capacity, De Blasio supported and raised money for Nicaragua’s communist Sandinista regime, which the Reagan Administration was trying to overthrow. Though white, De Blasio has strong intersectional credentials being married to an African American woman. He vaulted to the forefront of the race with a highly personal campaign ad describing how he worried the NYPD’s ‘stop and frisk’ policy unfairly targeted minorities like his son, Dante.
In his two terms as mayor, De Blasio has drastically curtailed ‘stop and frisk’, a move opposed by the NYPD. He further damaged relations with the police by accusing them of institutional bias against blacks and Hispanics. As relations with the police deteriorated, De Blasio pushed a slew of progressive ideas: affordable housing, homeless shelters, universal Pre-k, and at least partially delivered on these. De Blasio also tried to force controversial reforms of the city’s elite eight magnet schools. These schools are open to students throughout the city and highly competitive, but the student bodies are dominated by Asians and whites. Calling this unfair, De Blasio wanted to replace the magnet school’s current admissions system with a mandate that 45% of admissions slots be doled out to black and Hispanic students.
New York City is notoriously liberal. But De Blasio’s feud with the police department and attempted gutting of the magnet schools made him very unpopular. His approval rating with New Yorkers hovers around 30%. De Blasio found even less support with the national Democrat Party. Though his leftwing credentials are beyond reproach, De Blasio barely registers in opinion polls. In some polls, De Blasio scores zero point zero. The Democrat presidential field already has a hard-left candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, and front runner Senator Elizabeth Warren drifts ever further to the left. At the end of last week, Bill De Blasio announced he was withdrawing from the Democrat presidential race with little fanfare or notice. He returns to New York City where he is widely mocked and disliked. Most New Yorkers don’t miss the Olde New York.