Eric Adams, a former New York City police captain, has the edge among Democratic Party candidates in the New York City mayoral primary. Adams is hardly a progressive, though, and he is pushing a law-and-order agenda. When crunch time comes, will the city’s heavily Democratic voter population choose a path that few on the left appear to want to follow?
With a courteous nod to all Paris and London enthusiasts, it remains true that New York is arguably the most famous and celebrated city on planet Earth. For well over a century, it has been the beating heart of America – at a time when America rose to replace the United Kingdom as the virtual beating heart of the entire world.
A Once-Great City
The city can stake a claim to having been, at one time or another, a leading light in finance, theatre, art, music, fashion, cuisine, literature, and architecture. In addition, New York has welcomed immigrants from all over the globe and helped braid them into the fabric of American life, making it either a “melting pot” or a “gorgeous mosaic,” depending on what you believe about how the diversity of ethnicities share the tiny landmass that backdrops the Statue of Liberty.
New York has known the blisses of cultural zenith (Broadway, Chinatown, the Empire State Building) and the heart-heavy ravages of disaster; the crime waves of the 70s and 80s, the Wall Street crash of 2008 and, of course, 9/11. But it has always managed to Lazarus itself back from the abyss. Often, these rebirths were midwifed by a competent mayor – the right person for the job at the right time.
Fiorello LaGuardia is held in high esteem, as are Ed Koch, Michael Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani, who spearheaded a steep drop in crime and led ably after the Twin Towers fell. Conversely, David Dinkins was considered a nice fellow but an abject mayor – while New York’s current chief executive, Bill de Blasio, is mentioned by many as the worst mayor in the city’s storied history.
Through their choices and actions, leaders often give birth to their successors. Obama begat Trump, who, some would say, begat Biden. Those who come after are often reactions against those who came before, and the swing of the political pendulum is proof that democracy fairly consistently works as a corrective. Many critics believe de Blasio’s leadership has hastened dramatic spikes in crime that have paved the way for someone who appears serious about addressing this urgent issue – one that has defined the 2021 race for mayor.
Amid the clarion calls on the left to defund the police, the adoption of bail reform, and an astonishing 127% year-over-year increase in shootings since 2019, Eric Adams does not mince words when staking his claim as a law-and-order solution for what ails NYC. Instead, he unapologetically states: “Look at me, and you’re seeing the new face of the Democratic party.”
If He Can Make it There…
Are New Yorkers ready for that new face? After the primary, Adams emerged as the presumptive frontrunner among a field of many hopefuls that included former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who dropped out after perceiving the impossibility of a win. Adams may have struck a chord with his tough-on-crime pledge, promising to “zero in on gangs and guns.”
In what appears to be a loud signal to the more radical wing of the Democratic Party, Adams outpaced his closest contender, progressive candidate Maya Wiley, by 10 points. She served as a lawyer in the de Blasio administration – but any association with the mayor whose approval rating was at 40% in March may have acted as a kind of political kryptonite at this moment.
Adams left the Democratic Party and became a Republican for a few years in the 1990s. His surprising switch in party affiliation was what he termed a “personal protest” against the ravages of the misbegotten 1994 crime bill signed by then-President Bill Clinton. In order to combat what his first lady, Hillary Clinton, termed “super-predators” who needed to be brought “to heel,” the infamous “3-strikes” bill was passed, which many see as having punitively incarcerated a generation of inner-city black American men. Former President Trump’s First Step crime bill was an attempt to redress the incalculable damage done by this attempt to fight crime back in the heyday of crack.
Adams says he wants to build on that, stating:
“If the Democratic Party fails to recognize what we did here in New York, then they’re going to have a problem in the midterm elections, and they’re going to have a problem in the presidential elections. America is saying we want to have justice and safety and end to inequality. And we don’t want fancy candidates. We want candidates, their nails are not polished, they have calluses on their hands, and they’re blue collar people.”
And if the scope of his ambition weren’t already clear, Adams added: “I believe my message is going to cascade across the entire country.” After a waltz with far-left progressive radicalism, will the mostly Democratic voters of New York choose the direction in which Adams claims he will lead them?
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