The politics of snow and show

Last fall on this blog I took issue with commenters making spurious cause-and-effect assumptions about a Bill de Blasio mayoralty and spiking crime in New York. (Has the return of police commissioner Bill Bratton – the original architect of the strategies so often linked to falling crime – quelled their fears?) But forget creeping lawlessness for now and consider the snowstorm said to be headed for New York. Predecessors like John Lindsay and Michael Bloomberg infamously incurred the wrath of residents in neighborhoods slow to see a plow – and a day after the new mayor’s inauguration there are numerous articles out there characterizing the storm as an early test. Fail it, the highly conventional wisdom goes, and the de Blasio era will have been defined practically before it’s begun, no matter what might be accomplished in terms of education, poverty, and homelessness. 

True, in politics, support can vanish in the time it takes a street to be cleared. But if symbolism is the metric on which to base early impressions, then I’ll go back to the veritable dawn of the new mayor’s term: Wednesday’s inaugural ceremony, in which Bill Clinton and New York governor Andrew Cuomo played prominent roles. The presence and participation of the Great Triangulators (so dubbed by the New York Times) couldn’t have given hopeful progressives much comfort, the governor’s in particular: Cuomo has shown zero interest in imposing the tax increase on wealthy earners de Blasio needs to fund universal pre-K, is intent on rolling back real-estate taxes statewide, and has been a noticeable no-show on the closures of neighborhood hospitals over which the state has control -- an issue de Blasio seized on last summer to help spur his lift in the polls.

As symbolism goes, it may not be as telling (or troubling) as the questionable decisionmaking of New York’s new public advocate in bringing to the podium Dasani Coates-- subject of a recent multi-part story in the Times, which Mollie wrote about here – and hailing her as “my new BFF.” But if people are putting stock in appearances, then it’s the presence of Clinton and Cuomo on the steps of City Hall that may say more about what to expect realistically from a “progressive” de Blasio administration than his Tale of Two Cities trope or how fast he gets the plows rolling.

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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