Call it “afro-mentum.” Call it the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Either way, Bill de Blasio’s sweeping victory in the New York Democratic primary for mayor is a hint of change progressives can believe in.
De Blasio won every age group, religious faction and income group, both men and women, and every borough, to take just over 40 percent of the vote, technically enough to avoid a run-off, though second place finisher Bill Thompson is not done fighting yet.
He won among women and gay voters, despite the presence of a gay, female contender, Christine Quinn, the city council leader, who was seen as too close to Bloomberg — and in every borough, and every pocket of the city with the exception of some enclaves of the very rich like the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, which sided with Quinn (though she did lose Chelsea, one of the city’s oldest and wealthiest neighborhoods). He tied Bill Thompson, the only African-American in the race, overall at 42 percent of the vote, by winning black women 47 percent to 37 percent, and losing among black men 49 percent to 36 percent. And he won Hispanic men and women, white women with 36 percent, and 46 percent of white men. For Democratic primary voters, at least, de Blasio was the ultimate uniter.
And he ran an unabashedly progressive campaign, vowing to raise taxes on the rich, end the emphasis on “stop-and-frisk” policing, stopping a string of community hospital closures and working to make New York housing more affordable for ordinary people — an anathema to a city overtaken by mass gentrification over the last 20 years. For that, he was rewarded with a commanding 50 percent of the vote of very liberal voters, and 34 percent of those describing themselves as “somewhat liberal.” He lost moderate voters to Thompson by 3 points.
More importantly, de Blasio’s independence, and the inability of the big city papers, his well-funded rivals and their institutional backers, or the Michael Bloomberg media and cash machine to stop or even slow his late and sudden rise, signals a potential end to a period in the Big Apple’s history dominated by two pugnacious mayors who put the city squarely in the service of the rich, and who cast all of the blame for the city’s ills on squeegee men and black teenagers. Or to put it in Bloombergian terms, it’s the rich people who pay the bills, people, so all you 47 percenters bow down and say thank you.
De Blasio, the city’s public advocate, triumphed with a great deal of help from his attractive, multi-cultural family: his African-American wife, Chirlane (which couldn’t have hurt him with black women voters), their adorable, confident and quirky daughter Chiara, for whom Tuesday was her first chance to vote, and particularly their son Dante, with his tremendous, picture-perfect and sky-high Afro. Dante was getting major credit on Twitter on election night, with New York Times columnist Charles Blow tweeting before the final returns came in that the father might have to extend his curfew indefinitely.
Many credit the campaign commercial starring the 15-year-old with permanently turning the tide for de Blasio. Dante became the physical embodiment of the change his father could deliver — after all, as a young black man, he was precisely the kind of person Michael Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly’s prized “stop-and-frisk” regime was likely to target, before it was knocked down by a federal judge this month, sending Hizzoner directly over the edge.