The Lessons of the 2013 Election
What we can learn now that the election madness is over
Now that it's official and Bill de Blasio won a sweeping victory for Mayor by a 3-1 margin - just four months after he was languishing in fourth place in the Democratic primary polls at around 10 percent - what have we learned?
First of all, the message is just as important as the messenger. This year, de Blasio's consistent theme of attacking inequality and "stop and frisk" in New York resonated with voters and propelled him to victory. Among all the seven Democratic candidates, de Blasio was the most consistent and clear in his vision: his "Tale of Two Cities," although used by others in the past, reverberated and worked this time in the first post-Occupy and post-financial recession era mayoral campaign in New York.
Also, voters who were weary of a 12-year multibillionaire mayor - however much he succeeded in keeping crime down and making bold public health changes - were looking for the anti-Bloomberg. The 6 foot 5 inch populist who endearingly calls some of his friends "comrade" and who lives in a rowhouse in Park Slope couldn't be further in tone and priorities than Mike Bloomberg.
We also learned this year that sometimes politics makes for great farcical theater - witness the bizarre campaign of Anthony Weiner where names like Sydney Leathers and Carlos Danger actually became part of the political dialogue during the dog days of summer. Even Eliot Spitzer's ill-fated attempt at a comeback looked dignified compared to Weiner's sad and very public implosion. And we saw that Scott Stringer, the new Comptroller, can be tough and sharp-tongued when he debated Spitzer and called him out on his past misdeeds.
We also learned that the disciplined and long-term ground game of the potent Working Families Party (WFP) has finally paid off, with WFP-supported candidates winning in all three citywide offices and victorious for most of the new Council seats. The WFP, led by Dan Cantor and Bill Lipton, two unheralded and smart progressive voices in the city and state, will undoubtedly have a much greater voice in city affairs the next four years.
We learned this year that despite the spirited primary campaign, we must dramatically reform the way people vote in New York and catch up with the progress made in the rest of the country, particularly California. Too few New Yorkers pick our leaders (less than 20 percent of eligible voters turn out).
This year, there were six statewide referendums on the ballot, and the only one of these New York City voters seemed to be aware of was the question of allowing seven casinos to open throughout the state in the coming years. Kudos to Governor Cuomo and the firm Metropolitan Strategies and its leader Neal Kwatra for winning this close vote.
We have elected a progressive Mayor and a number of progressive and high-minded leaders to pick up the torch and try to make our city a better place for all.
The road ahead for Bill de Blasio is littered with potential potholes - a challenging budget and the question of retroactive raises for city workers; how to keep the city safe while not subjecting minorities to excessive stop and frisks; how to fix our schools at a time of immense technological change and still rampant poverty.
As many historians will note, Bill de Blasio was the right man at the right time. He represents our best hope for a more just society where everyone can hope to achieve the American Dream.
His plan for Universal Pre-k, one of his signature planks, symbolizes his belief in long-term and bottom-up solutions.
Here's hoping his path to success is a smooth one - eight million New Yorkers are counting on it.
And the eyes of the world will be watching as a progressive laboratory of ideas once again emerges in America's largest city.
Tom Allon, the president of City and State, NY, is a former Liberal Party-backed candidate for Mayor. Questions or comments? Tallon@cityandstateny.com
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