“When it comes to being unpopular, I’m unfortunately somewhat of an expert,” former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Tuesday, and it’s hard to argue with that.
In what is presumably the first of many agony aunt-style advice columns The Atlantic is running from de Blasio, the former mayor explains how he went from being the hottest jock at the Park Slope YMCA to the pathetic, ululating 12-foot-tall creature who roams the ghostly corridors of the Downtown Brooklyn Marriott. It started out pretty good for The Blas, in his telling. He puttered about PTA meetings and loitered at school drop-off, resulting in his landmark (and only?) bit of legislation: universal free pre-K for all kids. He won reelection easily in 2017, but by 2020 his popularity tanked.
Why? “I lost my connection with the people because I mistook real policy for real popularity,” de Blasio wrote. “I let a focus on individual initiatives, no matter how noble or substantive, distract me from offering an overarching vision for the future.”
When legislating on two key issues, housing shortages and the conditions at Rikers, he says his chief mistake was not letting voters see what he was up to: “I should have walked among them rather than just working for them behind closed doors. Voters need to know both what you’re up to and why you’re up to it. You have to help them feel your efforts.”
OK, seems like a bit of brag that a guy who perceives himself as an underdog workhorse might make to prove how nobody respects meaningful policy, but I’ll hear him out. De Blasio believes that Biden still has a chance to avoid this tragic fate: “Present a clear, sharp message and repeat it incessantly,” he wrote. “And I don’t just mean a catchphrase, but a vision for the direction of the country under his administration.”
De Blasio thinks Biden should interminably keep yelling few key policy positions — lower prescription prices! Vaccines! Coalition building in Ukraine! —on the TV so Democrats can win midterms. I’m not convinced this isn’t already how Biden’s brain is looping.
Alright, guy. Don’t you have a locker to go shove yourself into?