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The time for small-ball is over: Why de Blasio lost, and what happens now


Less than five years after then new mayor Bill de Blasio boasted that “a lot of people outside New York City understand what happened in the first year of New York City better than people in New York City,” America, too, shrugged at his accomplishments.

“It’s clearly not my time,” de Blasio said Friday morning, finally acknowledging what had seemed painfully obvious even before he entered the race in May with a slickly edited video and a catchy line about how “there’s plenty of money in this country, it’s just in the wrong hands” but without having built a policy platform or even a website.

Reflecting Friday on the 127 days of his run, he said that entering the race late hindered him along with the clown-car crowded Democratic field. So, the would-be candidate of the 99% never made it past 1% in the polls. Democratic voters consistently placed him behind a tech guy offering every adult a thousand dollars a month, a spiritualist who’s flirted with 9/11 trutherism and — insult to injury! — a small-town mayor running for president because he was boxed out of higher office in his state and who outraised de Blasio in de Blasio’s New York.

It was ironic to hear de Blasio — who ran for president because he’s the two-term mayor of New York and who’s the two-term mayor of New York because he won the support of a quarter-million voters in a crowded and crazed primary field (shout out to Anthony Weiner) — complaining about too many candidates spoiling the broth.

De Blasio took a puncher’s chance in that 2013 race and hit it after the smart money had written him off. The smart money wrote him off again in the 2020 presidential race, where he missed his chance so badly that he was out months before the year even began.

The shame is that while de Blasio has bet big on himself, he’s too often played small-ball as mayor, hiding behind lofty rhetoric about “historic,” “transcendent” goals and achievements while frequently passing the buck for problems to Albany and Washington.

De Blasio has vowed to turn the tide of homelessness, but it’s continued to rise on his watch. Public housing has continued its long slow-motion collapse. A task force he convened on school segregation has recommended radical changes to the system he’s yet to act on. Another task force is overdue to offer a plan for fixing the city’s broken property tax system, which has many millionaires paying lower rates than workaday renters scuffling to get by.

There’s plenty more, but the mayor still seems to be mailing it in, vowing in an article entitled “Why I’m ending my 2020 presidential campaign — and what I promise to do next” to “redouble my efforts to improve the quality of life of everyday New Yorkers, proving that policies like guaranteed paid personal time off can work on a grand scale. I’m going to continue implementing universal health care and a Green New Deal in the nation’s largest city.”

That first policy, which small business owners are up in arms about, doesn’t actually exist yet, though that didn’t stop de Blasio from suggesting otherwise on the campaign trial. The other two are much, much less than those grandiose names suggest. Notably, he offered no new ideas for what he’ll do next, and really hasn’t in years.

As New York Times reporter Alexander Burns put it on Twitter, “Where would de Blasio be today if he’d largely ignored national Dem politics and instead applied his (evidently substantial) willingness to go big/risk humiliation” by running for president “to fixing a giant, intractable local issue like transit or education?”

He has 832 days left to go big, or roughly six de Blasios plus seven Scaramuccis.

The mayor has spent nearly six years parading his contempt for the press corps here that had counted him out in 2013, and they returned that contempt over the course of his presidential run.

If de Blasio wants to finally prove how much better and smarter and more honest and competent he is than he’s been given credit for, he’s got time to do it — and no evident future in elected office for him or his wife at this point to stop him from going all in.

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