Politics & Policy

Clinton 2017

Hillary Clinton and Bill de Blasio at a campaign stop in Brooklyn, N.Y., April 18, 2016. (Reuters photo: Elizabeth Shafiroff)
She won’t be a president, so why not a mayor?

The New York Post wants Hillary Rodham Clinton to run for mayor of New York City. It isn’t the worst idea the New York Post has ever had on the subject of municipal governance. (For the record, the worst idea the New York Post has ever had on that subject is its earlier suggestion that I should run for mayor of New York.)

New York finds itself in need of a good mayor just now. After the transformative mayoralty of Rudy Giuliani, during which the city was simply saved from itself, there was the long, undramatic tenure of Michael Bloomberg, a competent manager whose main sin in public office was attempting to generalize his own funny little obsessions, mainly dietary, into public policy. The Pax Bloomberg may very well be remembered as the end of a short golden age for New York.

Having enjoyed the largely peaceful streets and more or less predictable governance of one Republican mayor and one kinda-sorta Republican mayor, New Yorkers decided to let their collective freak flag fly and handed the keys to the city over to Bill de Blasio, who is a genuinely odd duck, and by “odd duck” I mean something like a neon-pink mallard with three heads. “Bill de Blasio” is an assumed name (he began life as Warren Wilhelm Jr.), he once was mixed up with the Sandinistas, he is married to a social activist famous for writing an essay in Essence titled “I Am a Lesbian” (“We are a very unconventional couple,” she now says), etc. Like many of the Left’s would-be class warriors, de Blasio is a son of privilege, raised in Cambridge, Mass., the son of a Yale man and grandson of a Harvard man.

He has been about what you’d expect.

His enthusiasms are very much the stuff of lifestyle liberals associated with New York City’s sweet spot, i.e. the part of Brooklyn you can see from Manhattan. For example, he wants to replace horse-drawn carriages in Central Park with antique electric cars. He is an antagonist of the city’s successful charter schools. Of more immediate concern, he has rolled back important parts of the Giuliani-era anti-crime agenda and eliminated part of the NYPD’s post-9/11 intelligence operation, which was caricatured as merely “spying on mosques.” After the ambush-execution of two NYPD officers by Ismaaiyl Brinsley — “I’m putting wings on pigs today,” he boasted — NYPD officers turned their backs on the mayor during his eulogy.

But, in dramatic contrast with many other large U.S. cities, New York saw crime rates at or near record lows in 2016. New York’s troubles show up mainly in other areas: One in four subway trains is delayed on any given weekday, one in five on the weekend. The city recently celebrated — though celebration is hardly apt — the opening of one small part of the Second Avenue subway line, nearly a century after the project was begun and at a price that not only wildly exceeds early estimates but that also exceeds, by multiples, the cost of similar projects in places such as Barcelona, with Spain not being famous for the efficiency of its public sector.  De Blasio’s school-reform plan has turned out to be a fiasco, with fewer than 5 percent of the schools targeted meeting their goals, which were modest to begin with.

But a great deal of what ails New York is not directly within the control of the mayor, and many critical institutions, such as the Port Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, involve an unwieldy mix of state and local players from New Jersey to Connecticut.

No, she doesn’t really live in the city, but she’d never lived in New York State until she represented it in the Senate, either.

That is where Mrs. Clinton, with her global celebrity and her big national footprint (assuming it remains large), might be of some real use. If she were interested, Mrs. Clinton has the sort of stature that might allow her to rally City Hall, Albany, Trenton, the teachers’ unions, and the other relevant actors from Washington to Hartford behind something like a sensible program for our largest city. Red-staters can scoff all they like at New York and its problems: A functional and thriving United States of America needs a functional and thriving New York.

There is another fellow who might very well have made a good mayor of New York, but it seems he’ll be busy with other work for the next four years, possibly eight.

The country needs good mayors and good governors. But for some in politics, the presidency is the only job, and anything short of achieving it is treated like failure. (“All political careers end in failure,” Enoch Powell insisted.) Mrs. Clinton will not — sound the trumps here — be president of these United States. She wasn’t a very good secretary of state or senator, either. But she might be a good fit for Gracie Mansion. No, she doesn’t really live in the city, but she’d never lived in New York State until she represented it in the Senate, either.

#related#I had suggested earlier that Barack Obama, who clearly intends to stay involved in politics, might be a better precedent than he was president by following the example of John Quincy Adams and serving in the House of Representatives after his presidency. But he might as easily be mayor of Chicago — his former minion Rahm Emanuel clearly isn’t getting the job done. Obama does not seem like the sort of man to accept a position more modest than the one he holds, but there isn’t really one that is more grandiose unless (and I do not like to think about this) he goes about inventing one, recasting himself as a kind of pope of progressivism.

Another benefit of getting Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama into mayors’ races: That might finally spur Republicans into rediscovering their interest in the cities, wherein dwells an increasingly large share of the national electorate.

Clinton 2017 . . . unless the Republicans have a better idea.

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