martes, 4 de julio de 2017

National role eludes de Blasio — but Trump might help

Popular at home, the New York City mayor is still searching for his place beyond Gotham.

Influential Democrats outside New York City are polite in their praise — but they’re not yet clamoring for a Bill de Blasio revolution.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is virtually unchallenged within his party and all but certain to win a second term in November. He’s got a string of liberal policy victories in his back pocket — paid sick leave, paid family leave and a municipal ID card program — and he’s positioned himself as an outspoken opponent of President Donald Trump on policies like police reform and sanctuary cities.

But three years after riding into office with bold liberal promises and visions of leading a national charge on issues like income inequality, de Blasio is still struggling to fashion the national profile he’s long sought.

His efforts to push a national agenda in 2015 sputtered quickly, and his awkward election-year relationship with Hillary Clinton’s team only exacerbated criticisms of political hubris and tone deafness at home, underscored by his recent insistence on being chauffeured in a city car to his Brooklyn gym at the same time he's calling on people to make sacrifices to combat climate change.

Moreover, the broader liberal revolution the mayor once hoped to lead has come to be defined on Bernie Sanders’ terms, not de Blasio’s, leaving the New York mayor’s place in the national debate unclear — particularly compared to his Republican predecessors, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.

“He’s got a Bernie message,” Vermont Rep. Peter Welch said of de Blasio in April at a Democratic fundraising dinner in Burlington at which the mayor was a guest speaker but the Vermont senator was the star.

"There’s absolutely no doubt that the mayor of New York City should have a bigger role in the national discussion than he does,” said one Democratic political operative in New York City. “Even at this point in his mayoralty, I feel like Bloomberg was starting to come out more, and certainly during his second term, he began to become a national player. … Before he was elected, people expected Bill de Blasio to eventually be playing a larger role than he currently is."

Trump’s election may have given de Blasio a new opportunity, and the mayor is traveling the country delivering speeches and meeting with some of the party’s most influential donors as he looks to rack up a landslide reelection. Last month, he traveled to the U.S. Conference of Mayors' annual meeting in Miami to announce an effort led by a group of mayors to push back against Senate Republicans’ effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But by all accounts, the mayor of the United States’ largest city has a lot of ground to make up. Influential Democrats outside New York City are polite in their praise — but they’re not yet clamoring for a de Blasio revolution.

California Democratic Party Chair John Burton hosted a fundraiser for de Blasio in San Francisco in March and had good things to say about de Blasio, noting that “when you’re the mayor of New York, you’re an automatic national figure.”

But Burton notes that the primary reason he threw the event was a friendship with de Blasio cousin and labor operative John Wilhelm. “I don’t know Bill that well at all, and I could say if it wasn’t for his imposing stature [de Blasio is 6 feet 5 inches tall] and his being John’s cousin, that I would not have remembered him that much,” Burton said.

De Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips argues that local wins have to come before national status. “The mayor's only been in office a few years, and he's achieved dramatic success on crime, education, job creation and housing,” he told POLITICO. “He's putting big progressive wins on the board locally, and he's cognizant that without that management and policy success someone won't have the credibility it takes to influence the national debate. You've got to do one before the other.”

Slow out of the gate

Critics, however, contend that de Blasio actually took the opposite approach out of the gate — getting out over his skis in his first bid for national relevance early in his first term.

His landslide victory in 2013, built on progressive promises like universal pre-K and police reform, catapulted him from an unknown public advocate to a national voice for liberals disaffected with the Democratic Party.

But the mayor stumbled in his efforts to rally national liberals behind him. A national group de Blasio founded in 2015, called the Progressive Agenda, failed to attract significant interest as the mayor faced a series of increasingly difficult challenges back in the city.

And his plan to host a bipartisan presidential forum in Iowa fizzled when nobody would agree to attend it.

Then De Blasio’s failure to endorse Clinton early in her candidacy — unlike many other leading Democratic officials — left her campaign staff and closest allies fuming publicly and privately over what they saw as the mayor’s arrogance.

Clinton surrogate Hilary Rosen heckled the mayor when he held a news conference in Iowa last winter, as he stumped for her campaign. And Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook called de Blasio a “terrorist” for his public praise of Bernie Sanders in a series of emails hacked and leaked last summer.

De Blasio tried to make it right with effusive praise for Clinton, but it was too late: He’d become persona non grata among the Democratic establishment. He eventually endorsed Clinton, but the awkward dance ultimately left de Blasio looking out of step with not only Clinton’s camp but also with Sanders and his supporters.

People close to the mayor say privately that they regard the "Progressive Agenda," and the Clinton debacle, as a political failure they'd like to forget. “That moment deflated his ability to translate his rhetoric into political support among progressives,” Baruch College political science professor Doug Muzzio said

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