You will probably have read about Bill De Blasio’s stunning ascent to the New York mayoralty, and seen some of the comparisons made between his platform and that of Ed Miliband.
The similarities between De Blasio’s soak-the-rich redistributive tax policies and Miliband’s are hard to ignore, and no doubt the Labour leader and his team will be watching the goings on in New York very closely over the coming weeks and months.
To say De Blasio won the election is, frankly, a bit disingenuous to him.
He quite simply demolished his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, winning by 49% of the vote. In a City that hasn’t had a Democratic Mayor for since 1989, that’s a pretty stunning turnaround.
The New York Times reports:
Throughout the race, Mr. de Blasio overshadowed his opponent by channeling New Yorkers’ rising frustrations with income inequality, aggressive policing tactics and lack of affordable housing, and by declaring that the ever-improving city need not leave so many behind.
While one must always be careful of making too close a comparison between UK and US politics, the appetite shown for the kind of progressive politics advocated by De Blasio must surely strike fear into the heart of David Cameron’s Conservatives.
Polls next door in New Jersey don’t make for much happier reading for Cameron either. In this safe Democrat state, Republican Governor Chris Christie looms large (very large,) and he has won another decisive victory. He reflects the kind of no-nonsense, blue collar conservatism that Cameron and co. can only dream about, and reaches people who normally would never have voted for a centre-right politician in the past.
While John McCain won just 4% of black votes in 2008, and Mitt Romney fairing hardly better, winning 6% in 2012, Tim Montgomerie in the Times(£) [http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/thunderer/article3914183.ece] points out that “Chris Christie was forecast to win up to a third of black votes.” Stop and think about that. Christie is getting around 30% of the black vote, when presidential candidates from his party can’t even get into double figures. He is also likely to have won around 50% of the Hispanic vote when all the numbers are finally crunched. In the UK in 2010, the Conservatives won 16% of ethnic minority votes.
Christie is the kind of right-winger that speaks beyond the normal base.
As a result, he can work with President Obama when his state has been hit by hurricane and not care that it’s just before an election. He can avoid being lumped in with Tea Party extremists, talk about gun control, but also cut corporation taxes. Meanwhile, Mr. Cameron remains in hoc to the right-wing fringes of his, and other, parties.
Where does this all leave Nick Clegg and his Lib Dems. Well, despite my being one of them, it rather seems to me to look like the party remains stuck. We do not fit into the big spending, high taxing, politics of De Blasio and Ed Miliband, and given his opposition to equal marriage we are a long way from the social conservatism of Chris Christie. While I might personally subscribe to the modern incarnation of classical liberalism put forward by Nick Clegg, it’s hardly is the heartbeat raising populism of the kind put forward by Christie and De Blasio.
Coming so soon after the New Jersey Senate win for hyperactive Democrat Corey Booker, whatever else these wildly different politicians across the pond prove, they show that politicians who offer some vision, some practical hope, and a bit of humanity can go a long way.
Our increasingly stale political leaders in Westminster should take note.