12.30.2013 09:55 PM

In the last Sun of 2013: my last column

…in 2013.

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.

16 Comments

  1. Mike Sloan says:

    Excellent column. I hope that some contemplating running in Ontario’s municipal races will read this. We have several mayors and councillors across the province that have outlived their usefulness. It’s tough to beat incumbents, but if the message is right, people will tune in.

  2. debs says:

    that definitely is an important lesson, but once you do text a pic. own it.

  3. reformatory says:

    Problem is …. Ford is also really effective at doing many of the things that DeBlasio is.
    Happy New Year all. Unless a great candidate comes along, the duffas might win again. And NO Chow is not the answer. She would probably make his re-election that much more probable. Stintz might be the only one so far that might be able to pull something off.

    Hold on to your hats folks

  4. ACMESalesRep says:

    The New York Times endorsed De Blasio. The suggestion that he couldn’t get organizations like the Times to cover him fairly is simply not rooted in fact.

  5. JH says:

    I like the parts about the chattering class, the elites and the media WK. See a lot of that in Canadian politics at all levels. Trouble is those folks have been running things for a long time and are dug in deep.
    DeBlasio proved you can turf them, but not easily.

    • Jon Adams says:

      Well, to be fair, in Calgary Nenshi came up the middle in 2010, past an ex-journo and the “heir to the throne” alderman. The same chattering classes and media now criticize him for being reelected with a mere 74% majority of the vote. IIRC, Edmonton’s mayor is a young and dynamic outsider too.

      Change will happen, but the motivation has to be there.

  6. Paul Brennan says:

    I think TO does have similar problems…what about Honderiches letter to the Sacred Seventy – the goofy guy with the bow tie hardly speaks for the majority ..Ford is a problem ..but the elites grouping to expunge him will backfire …need a regular Joe or Josephine to replace him… I would think , preferably from outside the current goup of councillors…

  7. Here’s to 2014 and beyond and hoping Toronto voters are as discerning as those in NYC.

  8. e.a.f. says:

    good article. hope everyone takes it to heart. what is important here is someone who wasn’t one of the 1%ers got himself elected. How come? Well the 1%ers only make up 1% of the population. The other 99% of us, can go and vote for someone who offers us hope and perhaps even a way out of the current mess. It looks like the 99%ers went out and voted! Congrats to not only to the mayor but those who voted for him

    there is the story of how one man, against great odds got elected. there is also the story of how an electorate tired of how things had been not working decided to do something about it and voted for someone who might just think about them.

  9. Derek Pearce says:

    OT but will you please give your Sun colleague Ezra a swift kick in the arse for what he’s been tweeting when next you see him?

  10. Niall says:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2013/12/bill-de-blasio-on-horse-drawn-carriage-industry-its-over

    Thx Kate, for this (pithy) summary of kook-bar DeBlasio & what he’s all about.

    • Derek Pearce says:

      I suppose you think it’s a shame that kids aren’t allowed to earn extra money by working in the mines anymore either, eh?

  11. Swervin' Merv says:

    That’s one of the most encouraging columns I read anywhere in 2013, so a fine way to end the year. Thanks for the gift.

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