In recent years, while many other major American cities have declined precipitously in quality of life, with crime statistics booming and workers and taxpayers fleeing to the suburbs, New York City has thrived. This is no coincidence. After the living nightmare of the 1970s and 80s that can still be seen in movies like Death Wish (1974) and Taxi Driver (1976) – a time when the subways and Central Park and whole neighborhoods seemed to have been taken over by criminal gangs and the police had been defanged by feckless, politically correct mayors such as John V. Lindsay, Abe Beame, and David Dinkins – Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (1994-2001) turned everything around by making vigorous use of the police department and city courts. Things kept running relatively smoothly under Mayor Michael Bloomberg (2002-13), although one could argue with his nosy nanny-state policies, such as attempts to control the consumption of soft drinks.
But then along came de Blasio. On the surface, his election made no sense. Giuliani had almost surely saved the Big Apple from fiscal disaster and civil disorder of the sort that has plagued cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Baltimore. De Blasio, an out-and-out Marxist, was fiercely opposed to the kind of governance that had pulled New York back from the brink. He bought into the idea that heavily policing high-crime black neighborhoods is racist. In July 2015, we made note on this website of a proclamation he had recently issued congratulating The Nation, a far-left weekly published in New York, on its anniversary. The proclamation painting a glowing picture of The Nation, depicting it as a positive moral force that “mobiliz[ed] its readers to articulate and reaffirm their values and to take action in the name of progress (necessarily ruffling not a few feathers along the way).”
In fact, as we pointed out at the time, The Nation was the flagship publication of American Stalinism. Over a period of decades, it passionately defended (or minimized the significance of) Stalin’s Gulag and show trials, systematically demonized Stalin’s critics, and mocked and vilified American freedom. Nor did The Nation‘s insipid politics evaporate with the death of Stalin or the fall of the USSR. After 9/11, Christopher Hitchens, a longtime Nation columnist, quit the magazine because he was disgusted by its editors’ view that America had deserved what it got. He called The Nation “the voice and the echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden.” De Blasio’s praise for The Nation should have discredited him for all time in the eyes of every New Yorker who had lived through the city’s darkest day. But it didn’t.
Nor, bafflingly, have New Yorkers been put off in significant numbers by his various social and economic policies, which have changed New York’s course, heading it once again for that proverbial cliff. By ordering an end to the NYPD’s spectacularly effective “stop and frisk” strategy, which certain self-styled leaders of minority communities had criticized, de Blasio showed that he cared more about good relations with race hustlers than about the safety of New Yorkers. Similarly, by putting an end to an equally successful Muslim surveillance program, de Blasio showed that he was more interested in being praised by groups like CAIR than in protecting his city from another 9/11.
Also, De Blasio repeatedly gave the impression that he viewed cops as racists. When two police officers were murdered during his term, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association blamed their deaths on de Blasio’s anti-cop rhetoric. Not long after, when he attended the funeral of a policeman who’d been killed in the line of duty, the police officers in attendance turned their backs en masse on the mayor.
One might have hoped and expected that some Democrat would have come along and mounted a serious challenge to de Blasio at the primary level, or that the GOP would have found a candidate capable of defeating him in the general election. But no – de Blasio sailed smoothly to re-election without much at all in the way of opposition. It’s not only one of the more puzzling chapters in recent American political history, but also a potential tragedy for the one American metropolis that has done the best job of weathering a decades-long tide of destructive political correctness in the nation’s City Halls.