‘Preaching to the Converted:’ de Blasio Makes Another Progressive Pitch

Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Ilya Savenok/Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Ilya Savenok/Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio made another pitch for progressives to take on the “status quo” and get their message out nationally today, in remarks to a group of like-minded lawmakers from around the country.

“Implicitly, history is on our side. The people are on our side. Sometimes, the only problem is: we have trouble seeing it. And that’s not an indictment of us, that’s more of an acknowledgment of the challenges we face in the trenches—because there’s a whole host of messages that we receive every single day, telling us that what we see before our eyes can’t be possible,” Mr. de Blasio told a modest audience at the “Local Progress National Convening” in the City Council chambers.

Mr. de Blasio’s message echoed his comments after the Democrats disastrous performance in the mid-term elections—when he urged them to lean left rather than play to the center. The mayor once again insisted if people were getting a clear message of what progressives stood for—higher wages, addressing income inequality, respecting immigrants—Democrats would enjoy more support. But those they are fighting against, he said, are working to muddy the waters.

“When you’re fighting against the status quo, it is not surprising that the status quo will tell you you’re crazy. It will tell you what you’re trying to do is impossible. It will tell you what you’re trying to do won’t work,” Mr. de Blasio said.

The mayor acknowledged he was “preaching to the converted,” a room full of progressive lawmakers from cities around the nation. Still, his remarks come at a time when some of those progressive converts in the city remain deeply frustrated with the status quo and have been expressing that frustration publicly: the police department Mr. de Blasio oversees arrested some 223 people last night for protesting a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner, a black Staten Island man. The mayor did not address those arrests in his speech, and refused to answer questions from reporters about the demonstrations after his remarks.

Mr. de Blasio did tick off a list of New York’s successes on the progressive front—reductions in stop-and-frisk and fewer innocent people being stopped (though the racial breakdown remains largely unchanged, and the vast majority of those stopped are not charged), creating municipal ID cards, ending cooperation with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement on detaining undocumented immigrants, and his universal pre-kindergarten program. And he highlighted the idea that change coming from cities and states could spread nationally, citing the dramatic case of gay marriage—something elected officials difficult to accomplish 10 years ago that is now a reality in a majority of states.

“In my personal view, if you tell me something is impossible it just makes want to do it more,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We are not gonna accept the notion that we can’t raise wages and benefits and we can’t give kids full-day pre-K, that we can’t treat immigrants with respect. We’re just not going to accept those notions and boundaries that were repeated and repeated and repeated so constantly but really never were deeply real.”