So have you heard? Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is a Sandinista-supporting, tax-loving, dub-stepping communist who is going to lead New York City into a crime-filled future, and this is all guaranteed to happen because, even if de Blasio might not actually be a communist, he is definitely a progressive. In fact, it’s not just de Blasio’s Republican rival that has called him a progressive, this is actually a label that the de Blasio campaign itself has employed as far back as the primaries. That’s right, the real political radical in the city’s Democratic primary was not the lesbian candidate, or the African-American candidate, but the tall white guy who lives in Park Slope. And that’s kind of cool, right? New York has a mayoral candidate who is a true political progressive, one who plans on subverting the status quo and fighting income inequality and always siding with the little guy and avoiding dirty money from questionable corporations. Yay, progressivism! Except, wait. Bill de Blasio isn’t actually as progressive as he claims. Shocking.
Gothamist reported today on all the big corporate donors that have recently contributed to the de Blasio campaign, and it’s worthwhile to note that not all of these companies have what you’d call a “progressive philosophy.” Recent donors include members of the Ratner family (of the Barclays Center Ratners), John Zuccotti of Brookfield Properties (also of Zuccotti Park, but, uh, he wasn’t joining in any protests), real estate developers Ben Shaoul and Ed Scheetz, the founder of Bed, Bath & Beyond, a Russian billionaire or two, and Jack Cayre, the CEO of Midtown Equities. Gothamist also notes that de Blasio enjoys wider financial support from both Goldman Sachs and the NYPD than does his adversary, Joe Lhota. But so what does this mean exactly? Does this mean that de Blasio is hypocritical about his progressive leanings, and just hungry for donations, no matter who they come from?
Well, sure. It doesn’t mean that he’s a hypocrite, not exactly. But it does mean that he wants those big donations. It’s debatable, after the recent revelation that he’s A LANDLORD (albeit an incredibly nice one), that he could truly be considered a total “man of the people” anyway. But that’s fine, and not all that surprising. After all, it’s not like a politician would have the easiest of times (especially not in an election that operates on more than just public funding) getting in a position of power without the support of corporate donors. And de Blasio and his wife (who, let’s not forget, briefly worked for Citibank) have made many personal choices that are aligned with progressive ideals, like sending their kids to public schools. So that’s all good. And, in fact, de Blasio has been pretty consistent about everything he wants to do and about how he wants to change the “Two Cities” situation that he thinks we all exist in, and his philosophy definitely leans progressive. It’s just a sad truth really, that there’s no way not to compromise yourself as a politician unless you are already a billionaire, and thus don’t need anyone else’s money, or are such a huge lackey for the banks and real estate moguls that it would be fine with you to be bank-rolled by everyone and anyone who was willing to throw a buck your way. And so, we’re still voting for de Blasio, and we’re still hopeful that he is going to stay true to the more progressive of his promises, but we’re not holding our breaths for any huge political shift into a weird world of socialist policies. After all, de Blasio has the ardent support of the Clintons, who—love ’em or hate ’em—were another couple of politicians who banked on seeming like the more progressive candidates only to turn around and do things like sign DOMA and vote for the Iraq War. Let’s see what happens with de Blasio…we’re cautiously optimistic, but emphasis on the word “cautiously.”
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen