By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders
Several weeks ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would be spending time away from City Hall with an ambitious national travel schedule promoting progressive policies which he believes would be good for the country and New York City. He then said that he has “not ruled out” a run for President in 2020. And then in answer to a reporter’s question about his pledge to serve all four years of his second term as mayor, de Blasio’s reply was that “Times have changed since 2017”.
The Democratic Party will have no shortage of candidates vying for the nomination to run against President Trump. There will be more than a dozen and most of those candidates will hold progressive views similar to de Blasio’s. That is the nature of the Democratic Party these days. The route to the nomination travels through the more progressive and liberal ideology espoused by persons such as Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris to name just a few. And although the nation’s electorate as a whole is more centrist, the first order of business for any Democratic aspirant is getting the nomination.
But back to Mayor de Blasio. He was re-elected in 2017. With term limits he cannot run for mayor again. His height (six feet, six inches) is a metaphor for his outsized political ambition and his self-esteem. But being mayor of the city that never sleeps, the largest in the nation, is not like any other job in politics. It is a 24/7 responsibility. It is about managing the affairs of this sprawling metropolis and the almost daily crises that arise. It goes with the territory.
You sign on to be mayor knowing that there are going to be unforeseen issues that will erupt on any given day. A snowstorm, a labor union negotiation or strike, a blackout, mass transit interruptions, tenants in public housing that are in desperate need of heat, and services. The homeless on our frozen streets and a public hospital system that is challenged every day. Add to that the mega issues of mayoral control of public schools, and reform of our rent regulations to be decided in Albany this year. It’s a full plate.
New York City requires and deserves a full-time mayor who is on top of things. As the saying goes, the first imperative is showing up.
Clearly Bill de Blasio has ambitions that go beyond City Hall. He is an astute politician. His history goes back to his political activism as a young man followed by his work in Washington D.C. at the federal Housing and Urban Development agency. He then went on to become a City Councilman and the public advocate before being elected mayor for the first time in 2013.
As a student of history de Blasio should know that being mayor has been a political graveyard. How many New York City mayors have gone on to higher office? The answer is none. In recent times Mayor Robert Wagner tried to run for the United States Senate in 1956. He lost. Mayor John Lindsay tried to run for President in 1972. He failed. Mayor Ed Koch tried to run for governor in 1982. He lost. Both Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg flirted with running for president after they left office. No dice.
Yet Bill de Blasio wants to shirk his duty as mayor by campaigning in other time zones, buck history and the odds, all in a vain quixotic effort to gain traction for national exposure and a possible presidential run. He believes that the other Democratic national leaders with equal progressive credentials cannot carry the liberal fight for change as well as he can. In reality, this pursuit is just about a six-foot, six-inch ego.
My message to de Blasio is that he should run…but not for president. Bill de Blasio needs to run the city he was elected to serve.