"And the people have the power to redeem the work of fools." – Patti Smith
It’s become the “p-word” in City Hall and in his 100th day in office, the mayor invoked his magic word 21 times.
Hizzoner’s obsession with his favorite term was mocked in a hilarious skit in last month’s “Inner Circle” show as the mayor -- played by WCBS radio’s Paul Murnane – cooed: “Progressive – the most beautiful label ever heard… We’ll keep using the word ‘til it seems absurd.”
And with a liberal scattering of the p-word throughout his speech, de Blasio pushed forward his vision of New York as a city shining over the Hudson, a place where inequality will be fought and the city will rise as a national model for the rest of the country.
“This administration is a product of movement politics,’’ boasted de Blasio. “We believe in grassroots, people-powered government,” he said in language that echoed the People Power revolution of Corazon Aquino in the Philippines in the 1980s.
De Blasio’s call to arms centers around the notion of returning New York to its former liberal glory, an era where mayors like Fiorello La Guardia set about trying to fix things – rather than run the city like Michael Bloomberg’s technocracy. It’s no accident that the mayor also used the word “restore” three times, telling the crowd at Cooper Union: “You sent us here to restore New York’s proud legacy as the progressive city.”
But it’s not clear that de Blasio’s marching orders were really to create San Francisco East – or to make the city a kinder, gentler place with a better school system. We could look at polls but the mayor notes that “politics of the sort that we believe in doesn’t measure success by poll numbers, but by action.”
There was a bit of a “jump on the bus before it leaves the station” aspect to the mayor’s speech, a haughty Park Sloper sighing at the cocktail party that some of the other guests “just don’t get it.”
Through no fault of de Blasio’s, voter turnout last year was atrocious and polls (sorry, Mr. Mayor!) show that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers still know little about Hizzoner or his ambitious agenda. More projects like “Vision Zero” – a traffic safety plan that would help New Yorkers of every economic strata – would go a long way to helping him not look like a Sandinista from Brooklyn.
The speech’s lofty ambitions for the city could also apply to the mayor, himself. Upon his election, national liberal pundits from The Nation to MSNBC were immediately embracing de Blasio as one of the nation’s new liberal standard-bearers. One hundred days ago, it seemed premature to see the mayor in that mold. It’s clear, though, from yesterday’s speech that the mayor likes the idea and is thinking big. It’s an idea some of his supporters would like to see him push far beyond City Hall -- to Albany and maybe even Washington.