Bill de Blasio ended his presidential campaign today. If you’ve forgotten which candidate he was, he was the tall, abrasive one who didn’t make the third debate and who in the previous one kept trying to take shots at other candidates and interrupt the moderators. He’s also the mayor of New York City.
By the standards of modern American politicians, de Blasio is a really bad one, even when you put the ideological disagreements aside. He’s effectively abandoned his day job during his presidential campaign, spending a mere seven hours — less than one full workday — at City Hall during the month he launched his bid for the White House. He rarely meets with his own city commissioners.
Both as mayor and presidential candidate, de Blasio is always moving on to the next big and exceptionally impractical proposal — Ban steel and glass skyscrapers! Eliminate the gifted and talented programs from public schools! — while other, bigger problems on his constituents’ minds fester.
The city’s public housing is overrun with rats, leaks, mold, and lead paint. The number of homeless students hit a new record. The city’s bus system is the slowest in the nation, and he steers millions to poorly performing school bus companies. (The one area where you probably shouldn’t blame the mayor is the condition of the city’s subways, which are actually run by the state of New York, not the city. Blame governor Andrew Cuomo for your late trains.) His relationship with the city police started bad and got worse.
Bill de Blasio loves big, symbolic gestures that require sacrifices from other people, like instituting meatless Mondays in city public schools, more than he likes any noticeable sacrifice for himself, like not taking his SUV to the gym every day.
In July, The Onion mocked de Blasio as a man who had grown utterly oblivious to his own responsibilities and failures:
PLEASANT HILL, IA—Shaking his head as he watched coverage of the city’s flooded subway system during a campaign stop, presidential candidate Bill de Blasio was overheard remarking Tuesday that New York appeared to be a complete and total disaster. “I can’t believe how miserable and hopeless that place looks,” de Blasio said as he visited the Pleasant Hill Diner in Iowa, observing that if he were elected president, then perhaps New Yorkers wouldn’t have to worry about such terrible things happening anymore. “How can people there stand it? I know I don’t want to live in a place like that. Somebody really ought to do something.” Before his aides ushered him to his next campaign event, De Blasio took one last look at the television and muttered that he was glad he didn’t have to deal with any of that mess.
The mayor is a particularly virulent example of a common type of elected official, the one who’s much more interested in campaigning than governing. He’s a progressive Democrat in New York City; he began his term with a city full of people who agreed with him and wanted to see him succeed. The press would have loved to have written the story of the Sandinista-supporting former David Dinkins aide and Hillary Clinton campaign manager who brought about a golden age to the country’s biggest city. But as he failed to deliver, his coverage got more critical, and de Blasio treated the press with increasingly open hostility and contempt.