The success of left-wing candidates in the Empire State has less to do with their ideas than with the decline of the Republican Party.
Bernie Sanders has a new rival in Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, who recently made a feisty case that he, not the senator from Vermont, should be the tribune of the Democratic Party’s socialist left. Jaded New Yorkers have for the most part treated de Blasio’s presidential campaign as a joke, one that reflects the delusions of a mayor notorious for his laziness and gargantuan self-regard.
Notably, disdain for de Blasio seems to unite New Yorkers from across the political spectrum, including more than a few young leftists who toil in his administration. So it has been striking to see the warm reception for de Blasio’s performance at the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign in Miami, where he distinguished himself with his eagerness to interrupt his fellow presidential aspirants and to stake out the most leftward position available on any given issue.
Whether de Blasio has staying power is an open question. I’ll admit I’m skeptical. Nevertheless, it is fitting that de Blasio is contesting Sanders’s hold on the country’s democratic socialists, for it is the gentrifying precincts of New York City, not the college towns of rural Vermont, that are the heartland of American socialism. Even if avowed socialists are ultimately vanquished in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, as seems likely, socialist politicians are gaining real power and influence in the Empire State. Though many socialists will no doubt attribute this development to the widespread appeal of their ideas, the truth is that it is more an artifact of low-turnout Democratic primaries and the Republican Party’s precipitous decline in America’s densely populated urban regions.
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