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Bill de Blasio 2020 Is a Terrible Idea

Someone has to tell him.
March 18, 2019
Bill de Blasio 2020 Is a Terrible Idea
(Art Hannah Yoest; photos Getty/Shutterstock)

As a very, very progressive Democrat it pains me to write negatively about another Democrat. Especially a progressive one. But someone needs to tell Bill de Blasio that he can’t run for president and as both a Democrat and a constituent and because I am being punished for my sins, this task seems to have fallen to me.

I wish it hadn’t fallen to me. I wish that the only potential 2020 candidate to have a negative net favorability rating—18 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of the mayor, 24 percent have an unfavorable view—would have gotten the hint on his own. But that doesn’t seem to be happening. So here we are.

Here’s the truth, the #RealTalk. Even if you’re down with the Notorious BDB’s political program, it’s obvious that he isn’t very good at this. Any of this.

Take the Amazon HQ2 clusterfuckery. First Bill de Blasio was wildly in favor of having HQ2 built in Queens. He called it “mission critical” for New York.

Then, after Amazon pulled out, he wrote a piece in the New York Times that basically blamed Amazon for the failure of the deal he’d wanted so badly. Amazon had “proved [its critics] right.” The real “lesson here is that corporations can’t ignore rising anger over economic inequality anymore.” The bidding war for Amazon in which he had so wantonly engaged “exemplified . . . injustice.”

And then he finished his essay with a call for government regulation because . . . well, I guess because he didn’t get Amazon to give him what he wanted, on the terms he wanted.

Every politician is guilty of this sort of hypocrisy. Only the really bad ones don’t have the sense to try to hide it.

There have been other, less substantive, signs of de Blasio’s ham-fistedness. The mayor works out 11 miles away from Gracie mansion at his old Brooklyn YMCA. This is supposed to make him seem like a man of the people who’s never forgotten his roots or something. He requires two SUVs to convey him back and forth to these workouts.

Fine so far. Except that when he was questioned as to why he, a man who is Very Concerned about climate change, employed two SUVs for exercise instead of just taking transit like everyone else, he harrumphed that he rejected such “cheap symbolism.”

That is: He rejected the cheap symbolism of taking the subway en route to the cheap symbolism of going back to his old gym. Even Jerry Falwell Jr. would look at this and say, Dude.

It’s also possible that we constituents harbor some residual bitterness at the way de Blasio got elected in 2013.

It was an extremely competitive primary. He won with 40.3 percent of the vote. There’s still the sense that an overwhelming majority of New York Democrats didn’t actually vote for him. We never really elected him. The two serious candidates, Christine Quinn (26.2 percent) and Bill Thompson (15.5), split the vote during an insanely competitive primary where a number of strong candidates ran against each other and the weirdly unqualified guy won. Perhaps you may have seen this sort of thing before.

Last week Politico ran a piece that quoted a handful of former aides saying things like “The idea of a de Blasio candidacy is “f—ing insane.” That aide “laugh[ed] out loud” at the prospect of Mayor Bill running for president. During 2016, Clinton booster Neera Tanden privately referred to him as “a bit insufferable.”

And all of that leaves aside the groundhog murder.

If you’re not a New Yorker you may have missed the story about how Bill de Blasio killed a groundhog. It wasn’t intentional, so maybe it was hogslaughter and not actual murder. What happened was this: In 2014, de Blasio was taking part in a photo-op for Groundhog Day.

He was holding “Staten Island Chuck” in his giant paws. He dropped the groundhog from his enormous height (de Blasio is 6′ 5″). The poor groundhog did not die immediately, he hung on like a good little rodent but then eventually the strain was too much on his little rodent organs and two weeks later he died of “acute internal injuries.”

But wait, it gets worse.

The Staten Island Zoo then perpetrated a cover-up in an attempt to deflect blame from de Blasio. (And, by the by, to cover-up the fact that they had been publicly misgendering the groundhog, who was actually a female.)

[A] necropsy determined she died from “acute internal injuries,” sources said.

She had fallen nearly 6 feet when the mayor lost his grip during the Groundhog Day photo op. Sources said her injuries were consistent with a fall.

Instead of revealing the sad loss, the zoo—which gets nearly half of its $3.5 million in annual funding from the city—told the staff to keep the mayor’s office in the dark about the animal’s fate.

They told only a few zoo supporters—but claimed that the groundhog had died of natural causes.

“I was told he died of old age, that he went to that big farm in the sky,” said Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-SI), who later learned how the animal had died.

The zoo also never revealed the biggest secret of all—that the part of Chuck was being played by Charlotte. Chuck was benched because the zoo feared he could bite de Blasio, as he did Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009.

As I said: He’s not very good at this stuff.

De Blasio was in South Carolina a few weeks after R. Kelly was indicted on 10 counts of sexual assault. The mayor came onstage to Kelly’s music—which is bad enough. But he tried dancing, too. While flapping his arms. Like a bird.

Or a helpless groundhog in free-fall.

Stop trying to make de Blasio 2020 happen.

Molly Jong-Fast

Molly Jong-Fast is a contributor to The Bulwark and the author of three books. Follow her on Twitter @MollyJongFast.