by Joel B. Pollak 3 Jan 2014, 3:05 PM PDT
The American left, we are told by the sympathetic New York Times, is watching the mayoralty of Bill de Blasio with great interest and excitement.
The Times says that New York’s new mayor will create a “closely watched laboratory for populist theories of government that have never before been enacted on such a large scale.” The Nation, that venerable institution of American leftist orthodoxy, is even assigning a reporter to cover nothing but the new de Blasio administration.
That proves two things. One: the left, and its media, are completely uninterested in history. The “assertive, tax-the-rich” policies de Blasio is pushing have failed everywhere they have ever been tried. They failed in the Soviet Union and in de Blasio’s beloved Nicaragua. They failed in New York City, which avoided Democrat mayors for 20 years thereafter. They are failing—now—in America as a whole, where Obamacare is collapsing, proof again of big government failure.
Two: the left, and its media, have given up on Barack Hussein Obama, who is no longer seen as the standard-bearer for liberalism. His own “populist theories of government” were enacted on a very large scale indeed, with calamitous results. Even during his first term, when he was unable to reach a favorable deal with Republicans in the debt ceiling fight of 2011, the left began pulling back, telling itself that no matter what Obama’s political fate, the liberal project had to survive.
Now, the continuing collapse of Obamacare means that Obama is worse than a failure: he is an embarrassment. The left has its excuses, of course: he faced “racist” Republican obstruction, and he made several administrative mistakes, including allowing Congress free rein to write the legislation. Perhaps, it will even be admitted quietly, he is incompetent, not quite ready for prime time. All of that is true—and yet the deeper truth is that no one can do what the left wants to do.
Every so often, the left finds a new savior. So, in the aftermath of the fall of communism, when Nelson Mandela emerged in South Africa atop a constitution that combined redistributive rights with democracy and civil liberties, the left thought it had found the elusive winning formula. That illusion faded during the presidency of Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, who not only failed to provide those promised socioeconomic rights but actively violated them by denying that HIV caused Aids—and refusing on that basis to provide life-saving medicines to South Africa’s poor.
Obama was the next messiah. His appeal was that he combined the old left-wing ideology with a new message of reconciliation, best expressed in his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Once in office, however, Obama became one of the most divisive leaders in U.S. history, pushing his left-wing priorities and treating the opposition as if it did not exist.
De Blasio does not offer a compelling new twist on the left-wing model. He became mayor by sheer accident. Were it not for the repeated troubles of Anthony Weiner, who was the favorite to win before his personal habits forced him from the race, de Blasio would still be as obscure as he had always been, free to wallow in the left-wing fanaticism of the Sandinistas and Robert Mugabe (he later apologized for the latter) without imposing their awful ideas on the rest of us.
The primary reason Bill de Blasio is of such great interest to the left is as a consolation for the disappointment of the Obama presidency. His unlikely rise to power suggests that all is not lost for progressives—that they can still win elections under extraordinary circumstances. As long as that remains possible, as long as the media spin the politics of division and envy as “populism,” the abject failures of leftist governance need not doom their stupid, self-indulgent utopianism.