No, Eric Adams will not save New York

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The party’s base in the metropolises is beholden to ideological madnesses which it will not abandon, even if they threaten the Dems’ grip on national power.

Well, so much for Eric Adams, the would-be savior of New York City and the moderates of the Democratic Party. Following Saturday’s horrifying murder of Michelle Go, an Asian woman who was pushed in front of an incoming R train by a black attacker with a long history of violence, Adams said, “New Yorkers are safe on the subway. … What we need to do is remove the perception of fear.” Don’t be scared, folks. Just adjust your perception.

Since last summer, the former NYPD captain has positioned himself as a moderate exception in the list of hard-left activists and lackeys of the de Blasio administration. The move paid off: a coalition of white ethnic groups in the outskirts, crime-stricken minorities and tabloids Readers sent Adams to Gracie Mansion (his Republican opponent, Curtis Sliwa, wouldn’t have stood a chance in deep blue Gotham even if he wasn’t a certified eccentric).

Adams seemed serious about the city’s immediate crises: rising crime and gun violence, homelessness and street disorder, public schools that were lousy long before politicians handed near-total control to unions in the name of fighting Covid-19 . But for many urban conservatives – urban centrists might be a better term – Adam’s triumph meant even more. As the New York TimesBret Stephens said he was a “godsend” for anyone worried about the Democrats ” becoming the party of urban mismanagement like they were in the 1970s.”

This train of thought has a logic and it goes like this. As things stand, the GOP is hopeless in metropolitan areas dominated by the new yuppies, people who double dress up outdoors, who genuinely support depolicing, and who use expressions like “Latinx” and “people with vulva‘ (instead of the transphobic insult ‘women’). So the real urban competition is between Dems serving such royalty and fellow Dems like Adams voicing the common sense more likely to be found at the Bayside bodega than the Soho boutique.

Adams had another appeal for urban centrists: namely, that he was a familiar figure in New York machine politics. Someone who’s been around as long as Adams is said to have weaved an intricate web of customers and patrons, favors owed and due. Machine politics binds people in their own way to the reality of things and conditions them against utopianism. A guy like him would never embrace crazy radicalism.

Candidate Adams seemed to sense all of this and campaigned accordingly. He leaned particularly hard into the anti-crime realm following an incident last June in the Bronx, in which a mobster opened fire on a rival while two children, ages 10 and 5, took cover nearby. In response, Adams pledged $2,000 of his own funds to apprehend the assailant. The emotion he showed at the press conference seemed genuine (and probably was). He maintained similar tones for the rest of the year, cementing his status as a hardline alternative to crime and converting more than a few skeptical urban centrists to his cause.

Then he took office — and things turned sour almost immediately. In just his first two weeks, Adams has…

  • enlisting his own brother, a former NYPD sergeant who had worked as assistant director of parking at Virginia Commonwealth University, to serve as assistant police commissioner for government affairs, at a salary of $242,000 a year; Under pressure, the new mayor absurdly claimed that his brother would be responsible for his personal safety “at a time when we are seeing an increase in white supremacy”;
  • backed a City Council bill that would allow some 800,000 legal migrants without citizenship to vote in local elections and ridiculed the privileges of citizenship;
  • signaled he is open to distance learning in public schools, despite vowing during the campaign to defend local learning – a foolish move that can only rouse teachers’ unions to more intransigence;
  • and called United Federation of Teachers chief Mike Mulgrew his “good friend” with whom he shares “emotional intelligence,” which allows the couple to solve problems together (roll your eyes, please).

This last step is particularly pathetic since Mulgrew specifically instructed his constituents not to vote for Adams. In other words, Adams owed Mulgrew absolutely nothing, yet he chose to bow to a person responsible for keeping some of the city’s most needy and vulnerable children from going to school.

So what are the lessons here for the urban centrists?

For starters, take a closer look. Seth Barron of the Claremont Institute, in my opinion the keenest and most knowledgeable observer of city affairs, was one of the few conservatives who remained skeptical of Adams while others swooned. He pointed to Adam’s history of racial opportunism, including his association with Al Sharpton and the Nation of Islam and his unity with prosecutors to fight crimeto suggest that “the return to normal” promised by the mayor may have been an election mirage.

Second, beware of low expectations. Yes, it’s probably better that Adams rules the Big Apple than one of the truly fire-breathing Crusaders Awakened. But the lesson of Adams’ first two weeks is that in an otherwise hostile ideological environment, the mere corrupt machine type may not make much of a difference (and again, Barron’s account reminds us that Adams himself is not nearly as pragmatic as others thought) .

Breaking through such an environment requires an ironclad commitment to sanity that is all too rare in today’s Democratic Party. The party’s metropolitan base has embraced ideological madness that it will not abandon even as it threatens the Dems’ grip on national power. If Adams was FDR’s second coming, and he isn’t, he wouldn’t be able to resist those powers. The wiser, then, is to allow the awakened furies to consume the party while working to build a ruling conservative-populist alternative. Trying to play ball with the likes of Adams is a fool’s game.





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