Musings —12.30.2013 09:55 PM—
Happy New Year, all of you. Be good to each other, as my Dad would say.
NEW YORK — New Year, new mayor.
As the political classes survey the year that lies ahead, they should consider Bill de Blasio, the guy who is being sworn in as New York City’s mayor Wednesday.
De Blasio’s triumph was considered improbable, impossible.
But it offers a few lessons for Canadian politicians wishing to improve themselves — and their fortunes — in the new year. When he announced his candidacy for New York’s mayor just under a year ago, there were no less than nine candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nod.
De Blasio barely registered. His support was in the single digits. And when he announced, one media organization showed up to cover it. He had little staff, and even less money. When he ran ads, towards the end of the race, de Blasio could only afford to do three.
His opponents had big names and big money, and they could get outfits like The New York Times to cover their every utterance.
De Blasio didn’t have any of that. What he had was a message, and a determination to tell it.
He also had a past that many thought would obliterate his chances to be considered a serious candidate. While he had previously been New York City’s public advocate (sort of like an ombudsman), de Blasio — a trade unionist, a community organizer — had also been a committed leftist.
He had travelled to Nicaragua in the 1980s to help distribute food and medicine, and ended up an open admirer of that country’s ruling Sandinista party.
Back then, the Marxist Sandinistas were detested by the Reagan administration, and they demonized anyone considered soft on the Sandinistas. De Blasio didn’t care. Back home, he raised funds for them.
When the cutthroat New York media unearthed all of this, they gave it front-page treatment and clearly expected it would signal the end of de Blasio’s unlikely campaign. It didn’t.
De Blasio didn’t run from the controversy, he embraced it. “It was very affecting for me,” he said. “They were, in their own humble way, in this small country, trying to figure out what would work better.”
The Sandinista revelation didn’t hurt de Blasio. Nor his arrest — which came in August, when de Blasio was handcuffed for protesting the closure of a hospital.
Nor when he went after the city’s powerful police force, saying he would end the department’s racist “stop and frisk” practice.
And nor was de Blasio hurt when — in this, the city of Bloombergs and Trumps and Rockefellers — he said he would tax the rich.
Sounding very much like an Occupier, de Blasio said there was too much of a gap between the rich and the poor. If elected, he planned to do something about it. He even ran an ad about it, over and over.
So they elected him in a landslide. Despite the opposition of the political chattering classes, despite the contempt of the mainstream media, de Blasio won big.
As they get ready for a new political year, Canada’s politicians should pay heed.
The lesson: Being true to yourself — and sticking to your narrative — matters most.
Don’t fear the elites, and don’t pay much heed to the media. If you have a story, tell it, with your head held high.
And, who knows? You just might become a legend in your own time, like Bill de Blasio will Wednesday, here in New York City.