Ron Radosh

The Triumph of the Left in New York City: How and Why De Blasio Won

Make no mistake about the outcome of the mayoral election in New York City. It marks a triumph for the far Left, in the most important big city in the United States. The huge electoral majority for Democrat Bill de Blasio is much more than simply a victory of another “progressive,” as he calls himself. It is a victory for the old Communist Left and its descendants, the New Left of the 1960s, and marks a leftward turn in the Democratic Party nationally.

As an analysis in today’s Wall Street Journal by Sophia Hollander puts it, “New York overwhelmingly elected an unabashed liberal activist and political strategist who is sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement and once spent time in Nicaragua supporting the Sandinistas.”

Just as Chris Christie’s gubernatorial win in New Jersey gives political clout to the anti-Tea Party Republicans nationally, and makes Christie a contender for the Republican nomination for president, the de Blasio win strengthens the most left factions of an already left-leaning party. It will work to push a candidate like Hillary Clinton further to the left in her campaign for the Democratic nomination, as well as give a bounce to those on the left who favor the nomination of Elizabeth Warren as their candidate of choice.

As a shrewd analysis by David Freedlander in The Daily Beast makes clear, it is also a victory for a third political party from which de Blasio emerged, the so-called Working Families Party founded by Dan Cantor, the brains behind the now defunct New Party — the openly socialist group which Barack Obama once affiliated with. It makes the WFP, Freedlander writes, one of the “political power brokers of the first order” in the new post-Bloomberg city administration.

Cantor, the party’s founder, was a labor organizer in New Orleans and New York who also worked with ACORN before he turned full-time to building the new political organization.

The strategy Cantor devised — of building a party on which voters for the Democrat can vote on election day not by pulling the lever on the Democratic slot, but on that of the Working Families Party — is shrewd. It gives the left a power base because many who voted for the Democrat are far to the left of the regular candidate, and hence, when a Democrat wins, that third party can say their votes provided the margin that put him over the top. The party can then make demands for a pay-off once the regular Democrat is in office.

Now, de Blasio actually comes from that third party, and has staffed his organization with its activists. The strategy is an old one for New York City. In the 1930s and 40s, the left wing of the CIO trade union created the American Labor Party, a line on the ballot that allowed those further to the left than FDR to vote for him in the national election, while also being able to run candidates for local office on their own ticket. In the late 1940s, the anti-Communist leaders split and the Communist Party, USA and its followers took over the ALP. Henry A. Wallace ran on this line in 1948. As a result, he gathered enough votes to put New York City in Republican Tom Dewey’s column. To counter the ALP, the anti-Communist union leaders and politicians in 1944 created the Liberal Party, which became, for a time, the major power-broker in New York politics.

The only real national success the ALP enjoyed was to elect far left and pro-Communist Congressman Vito Marcantonio, who from 1938 to 1950 sat in the House and reliably followed the party line on every single foreign policy issue as demanded by Stalin and the Kremlin.  Now, the Working Families Party follows the same script mastered by the Communists in New York City in the 1940s, as the WFP has, in effect, become the rebirth of the old far Left ALP in a new guise.

Cantor himself signaled the meaning of de Blasio’s campaign in these words:

I think the basic view is that this thing has succeeded way beyond what anyone thought it might. The Working Families Party helped make the de Blasio ascension possible. The work we have done to inject issues of income inequality into the debate, from the first day—we have been articulating and advancing a policy of fairness over these last 10 years. The right’s view is that vast inequality is the price you pay for freedom. They are very clear on this. And our view is vast inequality is the price you pay for stupid rules. We are Rooseveltians. When people are secure that they are going to retire with some dignity, they are not less free.

Cantor’s party has already won major victories in races for the City Council, where it created a “Progressive Caucus,” whose supporters are drawn from:

A) the successor group to the old ACORN,

B) the Communications Workers of America,

C) the United Federation of Teachers,

D) and the successor union to the old Communist-led Local 1199, Dennis Rivera’s SIEU 1199 — still as far left as it was when the old CPUSA essentially ran it.

Bob McManus spelled it out correctly in the New York Post, where he wrote that the WFP is a “ a laser-focused, hard-left-leaning coalition of militant private-sector unions, grasping public-sector unions, and advantage-seeking hangers-on now masquerading as a ‘progressive’ mainstream political party.” Writing that the WFP is a vehicle for “advancing the narrow, often-reactionary interests of unions,” McManus stresses that de Blasio will have a far-left City Council giving him power to put across his economically dangerous schemes.

These include raises for unions, which are demanding retroactive pay increases (since they have been working without contracts for over three years); an end to pension reform; and, of course, higher taxes on millionaires to fund free pre-school education. No wonder de Blasio has pledged to stop the growth of charter schools favored by the African-American poor, whose interests he claims to represent. The UFT is against them, and that’s what counts.

What a change for the UFT from the days of Al Shanker, who argued that he had no problem with private charter schools. He would simply organize their teachers. But Shanker would have bristled at his UFT backing a Sandinista-Castro loving mayor for high office in New York City.

Of course, as Hollander writes in her WSJ article, the problem is whether by going too far to the left de Blasio will overstep and, by moving away from the mainstream, begin to produce massive opposition. The same New York City voters who pulled the lever for him say, according to the polls, that they actually oppose many of the proposals that the new mayor favors. They favor keeping Police Comissioner Ray Kelly, whom de Blasio wants to remove; they favor charter schools; and, most importantly, they support the stop-and-frisk tactic of the police, which he ran against during his campaign. And de Blasio won with the support of the unions that opposed Mayor Bloomberg, so he will be beholden to them when they demand payback.

No wonder the far Left is cheering. In a revealing Nation magazine editorial, left-wing historian Landon Storrs writes that New York City’s ’s new mayor is “not afraid of Red Scare ghosts.” It’s the old left-wing trick: when you cite someone’s unabashed leftist program accurately, they respond by accusing you of Red-baiting. According to Storrs, de Blasio’s parents were victims of Harry S. Truman’s federal loyalty program. At least she didn’t paint them as victims of Joe McCarthy. To the far left, Truman was the first McCarthyite.

It seems that her research revealed that de Blasio’s parents, Warren Wilhelm Jr. and Maria de Blasio, were both on the far left, and were probably members of the CPUSA or some of its many front groups. As a result, they left their government jobs. Maria de Blasio worked at the Office of War Information — an outfit staffed largely by far leftists who were pro-Soviet, and which regularly excelled in painting the USSR in a friendly light. Indeed, Storrs tells us that Whittaker Chambers “charged that Maria demonstrated Communist sympathies.” Chambers, as we know, was very careful in his allegations, and if he did indeed paint her in that fashion, his observation was undoubtedly correct.

Bill de Blasio, then, was a bona fide red diaper baby. And like many of his generation, he kept his parents “progressive,” i.e., pro-Communist, politics not far from his heart.

So Storrs repeats the thesis of her book, that the Red Scare, as she calls it, was responsible for curbing “the social-democratic potential of the New Deal.” Therefore the talented leftists who worked in the FDR administration “hoped to push the New Deal to the left,” and only failed because of government repression as the Cold War began. Now, with the de Blasio victory, it is her and the left’s hope that today they can succeed where their ancestors failed. As she writes: “Conservatives exploited public fears of Soviet espionage to push noncommunist leftists out of government or toward the center.”

Her thesis is completely foolish and wrong. There was a real threat of Soviet espionage, and anti-Communist policy was a necessity and essential for our national security. Some former leftists realized how they had been played and, like Henry A. Wallace, acknowledged their naiveté and explained how they did not understand Soviet policy for too long a time. Others moved to the center because they came to realize the folly of believing in Stalin’s foreign policy, not because they were opportunists who changed only out of fear of losing jobs.

Storrs tries to draw an analogy: “Like their McCarthy-era forerunners,” she writes, “conservative pundits have been trying to scare voters by casting de Blasio as un-American.” Again, Storrs is incorrect. No one said de Blasio was un-American, only that he defended the Sandinistas without any regrets, seems to love leftist tyrannies such as Castro’s Cuba, and advocates a far-left economic policy that could lead to fiscal ruin for New York City. They are not attacking him, as she thinks, because of “his interracial marriage [that is a new one; I have not seen one iota of complaints about de Blasio being married to an African-American] and his wife’s progressive views.” It is his “progressive” views that are  being criticized — not those of his wife.

She ends with the very agenda that is the problem — de Blasio’s support of “progressive taxation, a living wage, union rights, affordable housing, public education and racial justice” —  all slogans without substance that, when one examines the details, are the real dangers for New York.

Today, The Nation proclaims in a banner editorial that, among other things, de Blasio’s mandate includes building 200,000 public housing units for the homeless and the poor. Do they not recall the tragedy and lessons of Chicago, whose high-rise housing units became prisons and centers of crime and horror stories galore, and now are standing abandoned as a symbol of left-liberalism’s great failures of the past? And, of course, they say he must end completely what they call the “notorious” stop-and-frisk policy that has reduced crimes in the neighborhoods in which the wealthy editor Katrina vanden Heuvel certainly does not live anywhere near.

The editorial ends saying that “liberal New York has gained a sympathetic partner,” with a “progressive base” in the City Council to hold him to his word. New York City may be liberal and blue, but Bill de Blasio is not a liberal. Let’s call him for what he is: a far left radical whose ancestors are the New Left and the Communists.