The New York Daily News reports that next week, Mayor Bill de Blasio intends to announce he’s going to stuff his incredibly tall and awkward frame into the already-far-beyond-overloaded clown car of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. When I was a tiny child and there were no safety rules in the entire world, I would sometimes ride behind the back seat of our Volkswagen Beetle, in the little scooped-out cargo space we called the “wayback.” That would be the best possible seat assignment for de Blasio, and much more than he deserves.
Bill de Blasio! For president! It is genuinely unreal. It has the same dreamlike, delusional quality as Beto O’Rourke deciding to skip right over the task of not losing a Senate race in Texas to go for the whole national prize—only O’Rourke is pure candidate, a brand unburdened by any actual record of governing. There is a theoretical model, at least, in which Beto could find the national electorate to be a more congenial market for his brand product than his local customer base was. But de Blasio has a job as the chief executive of a major city, and he visibly hates doing that job, performing his duties haplessly and grudgingly. And so he wants to move on from that to be chief executive of the entire country?
No one wants this. It’s hard to believe that even Bill de Blasio, sour oaf that he is, really wants it, except as something to daydream about instead of thinking about having to run his city.
I say this as someone who voted enthusiastically for Bill de Blasio when he first ran for mayor, in a crowded primary field, and in the general election. I voted perfectly cheerfully to elect him to a second term. I stand loyally on his side in his various feuds with New York’s worthless and corrupt governor, Andrew Cuomo, a creep for whom I refuse to cast my vote. He is my mayor, and because he is my mayor, I have no hesitation in declaring that he’s a ridiculous ninny who has no identifiable abilities or qualifications to be president. I would let my seven-year-old play with power tools before I would support Bill de Blasio in seeking higher office (unless it was to unseat Cuomo, and there was no one else around).
It feels great to say that. There is a stultifying fear hanging over the Democratic primary process, the fear of saying anything that might damage any candidate who might end up being the one to take on Donald Trump head-to-head. It is one more way in which Trumpism has poisoned the spirit of democracy—the sense that genuine rivalries and enthusiasms and policy disputes have to be subordinated to the greater project of picking a winner; that to say Mayor Pete is underbaked, or Joe Biden is an avatar of nostalgia for failure, is to give aid and comfort to the enemy; that the highest duty of citizenship is to try to figure out which candidate the most other people would support and support that candidate.
To hell with that! As a free citizen of New York City and the United States of America, I declare that Bill de Blasio can go soak his head. He won’t listen, because he never listens to anyone, because he’s a terrible politician, one who considers it beneath him to show up on time for ceremonial events or to take the subway instead of being chauffeured via SUV to his gym in Brooklyn. He’s a stubborn boob who’s so bad at performing his job he managed to kill the groundhog during the Groundhog Day photo op. He implemented universal pre-K and free school breakfast and lunch, creating vast and valuable improvements in thousands of people’s lives, and still came across as a feckless do-nothing. Now he’s decided he should stumble around Iowa instead of, who knows, finding homes for the homeless or getting the pedestrian death rate under control or stopping the ongoing collapse of the public housing agency or actually following through on his supposed plan to close Rikers. There’s a weird kind of integrity to it, next to Donald Trump’s brass-plated insecurity, endless boasting, and raving demands for loyalty. This is America, where nobody is better than anybody else. Bill de Blasio, the true egalitarian, wants to give millions more people the chance to tell him he’s a putz.