So what is a New York City Democrat supposed to do?
For the first time in the history of Greater New York, two Republican Mayors have won back-to-back terms, meaning that this supposed bastion of liberal Democratic politics will have had a Republican Mayor for 16 consecutive years. The last time a Democrat won a Mayoral election in New York was 1989.
That is nothing short of astonishing.
While this turn of events would seem to be a stunning setback for the Democratic Party, it actually is nothing of the sort. Democrats should view this latest defeat in the same way Clementine Churchill regarded her husband’s stunning general-election loss in 1945—as a blessing in disguise.
Winston Churchill’s reply—if it is a blessing in disguise, he growled, “it is very well disguised”—does not apply to city Democrats, for this defeat clearly is a blessing. They can now rebuild their party, and by doing so, can rid it of all the pieties and sacred cows that immobilized it after the Koch years.
New York is no longer satisfied with the empty politics of racial and ethnic complaint. The days when Al Sharpton dominated the headlines are over. Equally dismissed is the notion that New Yorkers will accept unacceptable schools and a low quality of life as long as local politicians mouth leftist shibboleths about foreign and domestic policy.
New Yorkers have seen that politicians—Mayors in particular—can make a difference for the better in their everyday lives. They have seen that Mayors who appoint top commissioners based on talent and not political correctness can improve the quality of life in every neighborhood—not just those where the rich or the middle class live.
New York now expects results from Mayors. They expect the Mayor to be not a figurehead, not an entertainer, but a results-driven chief executive.
Michael Bloomberg has buried the old politics of pander and piety. Democrats have to respond to this new reality. No doubt some are hoping that the prospect of a Hillary Clinton victory next year in the U.S. Senate race, followed by a likely Presidential campaign, somehow will improve their prospects and their morale.
That would be foolish. Local Democrats have to find local solutions—looking to the Clintons for leadership would be an admission of defeat.
The Democratic farm team in the City Council and the State Legislature must realize by now that hopping on the latest leftist fad simply isn’t going to get them very far in the new municipal politics of New York. Voters no longer want to hear about virtuous votes in favor of meaningless resolutions in the Council. They don’t want to hear about whether a candidate for Mayor supports sanctions against North Korea.
They want to know how their would-be Mayors will make the city safer, smarter and richer.
That’s the new reality of New York politics. Democrats have to adjust, or face continued humiliation.
New Commuters Call City Home
The remarkable story of New York’s ongoing tenacity and growth in the 21st century continues to be told by the numbers. Perhaps one of the most remarkable transformations of the city over the past 10 years has been the shift in perceptions of what it means to be a success in New York. For many, the mark of success used to be the moment you were able to afford a house and yard in the suburbs and a monthly pass on Metro-North or the LIRR. But the unprecedented drop in crime, the vitality of the city’s cultural and arts institutions, and the healthy local economy have transformed the city into the place more and more people are choosing to live as well as work.
Newly analyzed census numbers show that the number of reverse commuters—people who work outside the city, but choose to live inside it—is steadily growing. Already, almost 92 percent of those who work in the city choose to live here, a higher proportion than any other U.S. city. Now it turns out that those who work outside the city are, more and more, also choosing to live here. The number of reverse commuters grew by 8 percent in the 1990’s, so that more people—approximately 270,000—commute daily from the city to outlying areas than commute in from the northern suburbs of Connecticut and Westchester. According to Metro-North, the number of people taking trains in the morning from Grand Central to the suburbs has more than doubled. The reverse commuters span the economic spectrum, from nannies and low-wage restaurant staff to investment bankers and traders. They share a common attachment to the city and the lifestyle it offers.
Indeed, it’s becoming possible for more and more New Yorkers to live the good life, thanks to the residential and commercial rebirth of previously grim and foreboding areas where no one would have dreamed of living, such as East New York, the South Bronx, Williamsburg and Bushwick. Citywide, building permits for privately owned residences rose 40 percent between 2000 and 2003.
Simply put, New York is a better and safer place to live than the typical suburb. The suburbs remain a terrific place to live if you are interested in lawns, endless home maintenance and owning multiple automobiles.
How Much Misery Is Good for You?
A new study, which indicates that negative emotions are necessary for a fulfilling life, attempts to quantify just how many happy versus unhappy states of mind one should experience to prosper. The results showed that those who handle life most successfully—who “live within the optimal range of human functioning”—have a positive-to-negative emotion ratio of 2.9 to 1. So that for every three moments of feeling good and having a sunny outlook, they experience one moment of doubt, despair or general sadness.
Previous studies have shown that an optimistic disposition supports psychological resilience and increases one’s curiosity about the world. The new study notes that periodic negative emotions actually help create room for more of those positive ones, by preventing people from getting overly attached to each and every positive emotion.
The researchers also found that those who reported a higher ratio—say, five positive emotions to one negative emotion—tended not to flourish in their lives, stuck in an unreal picture of the world.