By Tom Allon
I am increasingly concerned that New York’s mayor may be losing touch with the normally genial, coalition-building side of his persona. It would be all right if this just meant that the rookie mayor was simply losing a few of his Democratic friends. But his behavior of late could cost the city in the future.
Probably the most perplexing relationship of all is de Blasio’s fraying ties to his one-time political mentors, Bill and Hillary Clinton. On the day that the former New York senator announced her 2016 presidential candidacy, her former campaign manager rained on her parade by proclaiming he wasn’t ready to endorse her. Since then he has doubled down on this stance and has even praised Hillary’s new nemesis, Bernie Sanders.
Why would the mayor, whose city relies on a generous inflow of federal dollars, want to piss off the likely Democratic presidential nominee? Does he think that by holding back his endorsement he will gain greater leverage with Hillaryland?
It is hard to know what’s going through de Blasio’s mind; I’ve even heard the very far-fetched rumor that if Hillary stumbles, the mayor hopes to be enlisted as the progressive wing’s nominee for president. Really? Don’t you have to have a long record of accomplishment before running for the highest office in the land?
Then there is de Blasio’s feud with Andrew Cuomo, the powerful governor of New York and a fearsome antagonist. Dating back to his first year in office, when the governor big-footed de Blasio on the issue of charter-school expansion, the relationship has gone from bad to worse. Last month, both men publicly aired their frustration with the other after a bruising end of the legislative session in Albany.
There have been ample examples of feuds between mayors and governors, and invariably the more powerful governor wins. It baffles one to think that a crafty strategist like de Blasio would pick a fight with someone like Cuomo, who is not only much more powerful, but also has the memory of an elephant and will do all he can to upstage his former Housing and Urban Development employee.
It seems to me that since the mayor has no powerful allies in the Republican-led state Senate, he would try to win over Cuomo. But in a fight over rent regulations and a very public battle with the disruptive car service firm Uber, de Blasio has been thwarted and upstaged at every turn by Cuomo. This battle is one that de Blasio is likely to lose time and time again; one would hope that the mayor will try to win over the governor, who is the only person who can help him accomplish his ambitious progressive agenda.
Then there was the very public and surprising attack by the mayor’s hand-picked council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, over the Uber debacle. Viverito usually walks in lock step with her ally, but this time she pushed back hard when the mayor tried to big-foot her and the Council by claiming victory in the Uber battle. It was fascinating to see Viverito go on the attack and sink her teeth into the mayor’s vulnerable left flank.
Even the mayor’s longtime friend and fellow activist, Bertha Lewis, was unhappy with de Blasio recently when she was excluded from a City Hall meeting on minority- and women-owned businesses.
So, how can we explain this surging trend of losing friends and making new political enemies by the previously genial, likable mayor? Has his ego gotten in the way now that he thinks he has become one of the leading progressive voices in the country? Has he decided that he is so strong and secure that he can mix it up with the governor and potentially antagonize his party’s likely presidential nominee? That he no longer needs the Council speaker or allies like Lewis to work with him to achieve sweeping social change in the city?
I don’t think that these events are a coincidence or the random acts of a politician who shoots from the hip, like Donald Trump. It seems that de Blasio has decided that the most effective way to govern is to shed the “Mr. Nice Guy” image and go it alone.
I guess the old saying is true: In politics, if you want a friend, go get a dog.
Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at tallo