In “Hamilton,” the musical, a battle-weary George Washington gives some advice to the eager, but naive, Alexander Hamilton.
“Winning was easy, young man,” Washington tells his protege. “Governing’s harder.”
The line comes to mind this week in light of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s about-face on banning carriage horses in Central Park.
During his campaign, the mayor drew support (and a ton of money) from the anti-horse carriage crowd for vowing -- on Day One! -- to introduce legislation that would ban horses from the city.
Once he got into office, though, de Blasio found that an outright ban wasn’t as easy as he thought. Governing, it turns out, was harder. The City Council, which would have to bless any ban, was a harder sell than de Blasio bargained for, and organized labor, a pillar of de Blasio’s constituency, was ardently against the move. (The carriage drivers are represented by the Teamsters.)
What de Blasio ended up with was a compromise, of sorts, that speaks to the difficulties of making tough choices in a messy city. The horse-carriage population was reduced, but not eliminated (pleasing the union); the stables were moved inside the park, placating some animal-rights concerns; and a pesky, disorganized pedicab industry was offered up as a sacrifice.
It probably was the best anyone could do, given the forces at play. But the lesson here is one de Blasio should study as he moves forward: Making blanket policy pronouncements in a city like New York, before studying the facts on the grouind, may feel good in the moment, but is unlikely to survive the messy business of governing and compromise.
Just ask George Washington.