Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 16, 2013

A dossier on Bill de Blasio

Filed under: New York,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 7:02 pm

Bill de Blasio

On August 8th the Nation Magazine endorsed Bill De Blasio as their choice for Mayor in the New York City Democratic Party primaries:

Among this year’s Democratic contenders, several have made thoughtful attempts to address this question. But only one candidate has offered a consistently compelling answer. That candidate is Bill de Blasio, the city’s current public advocate, and his commitment to reimagining the city in boldly progressive, egalitarian terms is the reason we are endorsing him for mayor.

So “boldly progressive” is Bill de Blasio that DP centrist Matt Yglesias urges him to ratchet down his politics:

It’s a nice hope, and de Blasio indeed has some good ideas. But everyone should take a deep breath or two. Economic inequality is a serious issue and municipal governance is a serious matter, but the fact is that the two have relatively little to do with each other.

My guess is that de Blasio’s business about economic inequality is nothing less than the vapor that came out of Obama’s mouth in 2007 when he began campaigning for President. If de Blasio does somehow beat Quinn in the DP primary and then go on to become Mayor, his inspiration will be much more David Dinkins—the man who gave him his start as a professional politician—than Ralph Nader.

I first ran into de Blasio back in 1989 when he started showing up at NY Nicaragua Solidarity meetings about once a month when he was an aide to Dinkins. I always found him amiable and helpful even though it was doubtful that the Mayor’s office could do much about contra funding, our chief concern. Thinking now about how Obama got his start in Chicago politics as a peace candidate, I wonder if de Blasio was plotting out future career moves by solidifying his reputation as a kind of Park Slope poster child.

Like Obama hanging out with CP poet Frank Marshall Davis in Hawaii, de Blasio had plenty of exposure to the organized left growing up as the NY Observer reported in April 2001 in a profile on de Blasio’s campaign for City Council in the 39th District in Brooklyn:

Mr. De Blasio’s interest in politics can be traced back to his childhood in Cambridge, Mass. His mother, a labor organizer, and his father, a war hero turned federal bureaucrat, were investigated by the forces of Senator Joseph McCarthy for ties to the Communist Party, turning them into lifelong civil libertarians. When he was a child, his older brothers regularly attended Vietnam War protests and staged sit-ins at nuclear power plants. Mr. De Blasio’s own activist streak emerged after he moved to New York–he went to New York University as an undergraduate and then got an M.B.A. from Columbia–when he worked with nonprofit organizations opposed to American policy in Central America.

Unfortunately, no amount of cozying up to Frank Marshall Davis or having a dad in the CP will matter much once you train your sights on being a bourgeois politician.

The first sign that de Blasio was traveling down a familiar road was his appearances on State Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s radio show on WMCA on Saturday night when he ran for City Council from the 39th District in 2001, that includes Borough Park, an area that contains many orthodox Jews who vote as a bloc and take their cues from Hikind. Hikind is one of the biggest scumbags in the Democratic Party in N.Y. who leaves a trail of slime going back to his days as a follower of Meir Kahane, an openly fascist leader of the Jewish Defense League.

Hikind went on to endorse de Blasio for Public Advocate in 2009 and now endorses him along with William Thomson in the DP mayor primary. In return, de Blasio has endorsed Hikind’s favorites, including Joe Lazar who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in the 39th District in 2010.

You can tell how important Borough Park votes are for de Blasio based on the stance he took on the BDS controversy at Brooklyn College early this year. In a McCarthyite campaign orchestrated by Dov Hikind, the school came under pressure to include a pro-Israel speaker. This was de Blasio’s statement:

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is inflammatory, dangerous and utterly out of step with the values of New Yorkers. An economic boycott represents a direct threat to the State of Israel–that’s something we need to oppose in all its forms. No one seriously interested in bringing peace, security and tolerance to the Middle East should be taken in by this event.

This is not the first time that de Blasio has positioned himself as a “friend of Israel”. Raillan Brooks, a blogger at the Village Voice, revealed that de Blasio was opposed to Saudi airplanes landing at local airports:

Here’s a little morsel of insanity for your Tuesday morning: New York City Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is trying to yank Saudi Arabian Airlines’ right to land at U.S. airports over its policy of not allowing Israeli citizens to board, starting with JFK. The director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines, Khalid Al-Melhem, shot back at de Blasio, insisting that it is merely the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries that is behind the policy. Al-Melhem’s claim that discrimination isn’t behind the ban is bullshit, but so is de Blasio’s outrage.

Brooks then posed the question: “Why is coverage of de Blasio so light on skepticism? Because the man has spent a career building a name for himself as a Defender of the Downtrodden, a bonny shroud for cold political calculus.”

As a touchstone for Brooklyn progressives, nothing tops the Atlantic Yards development foisted on its residents by Bruce Ratner and backed by de Blasio. Largely through bribing local officials with big campaign contributions, Ratner defeated the struggle to preserve the neighborhood’s unique character. Atlantic Yards Report, one of many websites devoted to exposing Ratner’s crooked deals, delivers the goods on de Blasio’s nose in the trough:

In June 2011, Bruce Ratner hosted a birthday party/fund-raiser for de Blasio. In February 2012, the New York Post reported that there were two snags in FCR-related contributions to de Blasio. First, $4,500 of $8,500 total were not listed as coming through an FCR intermediary.

Second, the intermediary was listed as FCR construction chief Bob Sanna, though, as the Post’s David Seifman wrote, “There’s no way Sanna would do any of this without direction from Ratner, who has made no secret of his support for de Blasio.” (That doesn’t prevent Sanna from being the formal conduit, however.)

Sanna as intermediary has now raised a total of $13,600 for de Blasio, or $5,100 since last year’s filing. Most of the individuals have some piece of the Atlantic Yards project as subcontractors.

In my view, the Nation Magazine should not endorse any politician who makes common cause with Bruce Ratner. One supposes that the liberal standard bearer was far more impressed with his maintenance of a New York’s worst landlord list when he was public advocate.

Finally, despite his posturing as a fearless defender of the poor and the oppressed, a man named Alan Lapes had no problem ponying up $15,000 for his mayoral campaign. Who is Alan Lapes, you ask? This article from New York magazine in February should give you some idea:

There is nothing illegal about the fund-raising tactic the New York Times reports has become a favorite of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign: You can donate the maximum to a candidate and then donate more to his or her past campaigns to defray debts. It’s a little unusual to do it so much, but the interesting thing is who’s taking advantage of the opportunity to shell out more than the $4,950 maximum for the candidate the Times previously described as “a passionate voice on the homeless and housing issues,” and “a strong supporter of government transparency and changes in campaign finance rules.”

One big donor is Alan Lapes, a landlord who has invested heavily in buildings he rents out as private homeless shelters, one of which the Daily News once described as a “hell hotel.” More recently, Lapes sparked a controversy in Carol Gardens when he wanted to open a shelter in one of his buildings there. As Capital New York’s Andrew Rice wrote in a less-than-flattering profile of Lapes last October, advocates for the poor see him as “part of a wave of profiteers who rousted long-term, low-paying tenants from the kind of SRO buildings that dotted city during the Ed Koch era,” though Lapes sees himself as a businessman who helps the needy.

After the article appeared, de Blasio returned Lapes’s money—a smart move for an ambitious politician anxious to maintain his liberal credentials.

All I can say is that is too fucking bad that the Greens have no plans to run someone for Mayor—or maybe they do. If they are, it is typical that I haven’t heard about it. Back in 1981, Peter Camejo urged the SWP to run a joint campaign for Mayor with other left groups against Koch, who was on both the Democratic and Republic ballots. For his efforts, he was eventually expelled.

With New York’s role as the seedbed for the Occupy movement, it is a damned shame that the left can’t get its act together to run someone against Quinn or de Blasio. With Quinn an open tool of the landlords, and de Blasio their concealed weapon, isn’t an alternative urgently needed? What good is the left if it can’t rise to such occasions?


  1. Useful article. As an FYI, the Greens do have a candidate, Tony Gronowicz: http://www.votegronowicz.info/

    Comment by aaron a. — August 16, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

  2. Does he look like an aged and bloated Joker to anyone else?

    Comment by Pandora — August 16, 2013 @ 7:57 pm

  3. Pandora, that is really thoughtlessly cruel as well as prejudicial against people who are overweight, and ageist. We all age, and infirmities such as arthritis may make it difficult to exercise. On a left wing blog it is particularly offensive. Now if you have something substantive to say about his politics or oratorical skills or lack thereof, that is fair game. It is sad, that I, who usually vote Green, don’t know he is running (I am not in NYC anymore, but I get lots of Green email) There must be a Green gene: myself and my two kids voted for Jill Stein, my spouse and my kid’s spouses voted for the Drone candidate. Oh for the days when there were Socialist and even Communist members of the City Council and NYC congressional delegation. (amendment: never any CPers in Congress, although nowadays they’re so moderate they’d slip in un-noticed)

    Comment by Peter Myers — August 16, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

  4. Ageist? Give me a break. All that endless rhetorical pussyfooting–the men and women this and that–is for college papers. I have grown weary of it. God forbid you poke fun at any one, even someone who is criticized for taking the Obama route as explained in the article. You know what’s ageist and prejudicial against overweight people? Destroying SS or drowning working class movements in propaganda, or blood as may be the case.

    Comment by Pandora — August 16, 2013 @ 11:12 pm

  5. Don’t forget Randy Credico either. (Or does he have dirty political laundry too of which I’m not aware of?) http://www.credico2013.org/

    Comment by Luke Rondinaro — August 17, 2013 @ 1:21 am

  6. Fine to poke fun ,, I’m not so PC as you might think,, and I might have over-reacted a bit, but it is still not so nice to poke fun at someones age (I am 71) or b/c they’re fat .. Perhaps in the context of a political comment.and/or in anger one might comment on their appearance or age : That fat f..k Netanyahu is a war criminal, or that doddering McClain should shut up. You post facto invoked political stuff but not in the initial post about the Green guy. I had no way you were referring to his political shortcomings. I’ll chalk it up to a careless post in the ultra rapid digital era, I’ve emailed stuff to lists impulsively that got me in plenty hot water at work. I will assume that you don’t find all old and fat people laughable. Let’s not start a flame war over this. We will stick to arguments over what year the Soviet Union degenerated, and how many organizations we can form over this issue.

    Comment by Peter Myers — August 17, 2013 @ 1:43 am

  7. I dont view all old people as laughable. If I did i wouldnt lurk in this website as often as I do. One of my constant complaints is the fact I’m not surrounded by old commies from whom I could learn a thing or two.

    Comment by Pandora — August 17, 2013 @ 3:17 am

  8. Well I guess I qualify for that. But if you don’t believe that USSR bureaucratized at 9:12 AM on Feb. 3, 1924, “you ain’t no comrade of mine”

    Comment by Peter Myers — August 17, 2013 @ 3:27 am

  9. Green Party mayoral candidate: http://www.votegronowicz.info/

    Comment by Pham Binh — August 19, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

  10. I’ll throw in my two cents about being fat. I’m fat and I have absolutely no problem saying that my governor, the vomit-inducting Paul LePage of Maine, needs to get off his FAT ass and do some real work. (Real work being taking care of people, animals, and the planet.) He is fat, and fat is simply a descriptor of the size of his ass.

    Comment by Tobysgirl — August 20, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

  11. This b.s. on old & fat guys diverts from the topic of this article, so stfu. Candidate deBlasio is the worst kind of pseudo progressive a la Obama. That said, who in their right mind isn’t going to suck up to Hikind and get a public circumcision to prove their Zionist cred as a NYC mayoral candidate

    Comment by vonlmo — August 20, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

  12. The word “aged” had a specific referent: The Joker. De Blasio was described as an older version of that fictional Bad Guy.

    As for “bloated,” it doesn’t exactly mean fat. Thin people get bloated.

    In other words, people should think more carefully about what they read before getting huffy about such an ambiguous statement.

    While the choice of photo is a pretty obvious piece of editorializing (what, couldn’t you find one of him gnawing on an infant’s femur?), Joker or not, De Blasio does indeed look demonic here, whatever people choose to make of that.

    On third thought, I think the photo proves that he’s a Reptilian Shape Shifter, which is why I’m commanded to vote for him.

    Comment by Michael Fiorillo — August 21, 2013 @ 1:12 am

  13. I love your quotation from Matt Yglesias, ” Economic inequality is a serious issue and municipal governance is a serious matter, but the fact is that the two have relatively little to do with each other.” Truer words have not been spoken. My conclusion, contrary to Proyect, is to give up on electoralism as a strategy. Indepenent mass action, up to a general strike, is not around the corner but is more realistic than a new party in NYC!

    Comment by Wayne Price — August 23, 2013 @ 1:49 am

  14. A small correction: neither de Blasio nor Hikind endorsed Joe Lazar for de Blasio’s old seat in 2010. De Blasio stayed neutral (and, surprisingly, Borough Park didn’t go for the candidate that Hikind backed).

    Comment by shallowpate — August 23, 2013 @ 11:28 pm

  15. Sunkara interviews De Blasio: http://www.thenation.com/article/175835/interview-bill-de-blasio

    Comment by PB — August 29, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

  16. […] August 16th I wrote an article for my blog titled “A Dossier on Bill de Blasio”  that mentioned in passing his occasional appearance at NY Nicaragua Solidarity steering […]

    Pingback by De Blasio and the Left » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names — September 25, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

  17. […] August 16th I wrote an article for my blog titled “A Dossier on Bill de Blasio” that mentioned in passing his occasional appearance at NY Nicaragua Solidarity steering […]

    Pingback by De Blasio and the Left — September 25, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

  18. […] August 16th I wrote an article for my blog titled “A Dossier on Bill de Blasio”  that mentioned in passing his occasional appearance at NY Nicaragua Solidarity steering […]

    Pingback by Bill de Blasio and the left | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — September 25, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

  19. The Greens have a whole slate of candidates running in NY City, headed by Tony Gronowicz fo Mayor, who by the way is endorsed by the Socialist Party, SP-USA. First time they (we sociaists of the SP-USA) have endorsed a NYC mayoral candidate in many, many decades. And Howie Hawkins is running (again) for Syracuse Common Council Howie may actually pull out a win.

    Comment by GreenRedJohnRey — September 27, 2013 @ 11:52 pm

  20. Thanks Aaron A. The Greens actually have a full slate of candidates in NY City, headed by Tony Gronowicz who has the endorsement of the Socialists (SP-USA)–the first time SP-USA has endorsed a NY City mayoral candidate in many, many decades. FYI: Yours truly, John Reynolds is running for City Council in the NW Bronx, District, on an explicit, unapologetical, unrepentant EcoSocialist program and platform.

    Comment by gracchusgreen — September 27, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

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