In Iowa, de Blasio Tells Democratic Party to ‘Go to the People’

Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared to position himself as a national party leader on progressive issues in Iowa, a key state in presidential elections.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), at the mayor’s campaign rally ahead of the November general election. Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

In a speech in Iowa as he seeks to build up his national profile, Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the Democratic Party to “go to the people” and take advantage of resentment against President Trump.

De Blasio gave the keynote speech at the holiday party of Progress Iowa, a liberal group, on Tuesday night. Politicians from coastal states rarely venture into Iowa unless they are considering a presidential run. Iowa is the first state to hold votes in the presidential primaries, several days before the New Hampshire primaries.

The mayor noted he is the first Democrat to win re-election since the late former Mayor Ed Koch in 1985. He also pointed to a recent poll in the Des Moines Register that found that 60 percent of Iowans disapprove of Trump.

“Sixty percent of the people of their state say that their president and their party is taking their state in the wrong direction, then it’s time for change, isn’t it?” de Blasio said, to cheers from the audience.

“We have a clearly defined moment but we have to meet the moment,” the mayor continued. Democrats should focus on winning more congressional seats, he said.

“Leave no stone unturned, leave no seat uncontested,” de Blasio said. “Go to the people and listen. As Democrats, we need to cherish the moment because it’s the perfect moment to throw off some of the burdens that have held us back.”

At one point during the speech, he appeared to take a jab at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, and Democrats overall. De Blasio endorsed Clinton, although he held off initially on the grounds that he wanted to hear her vision for tackling income inequality.

The mayor said some people believed that the Democratic Party was an “elite party.” He suggested long-established campaign tactics such as knocking on voters’ doors and meeting them at public places. “Wherever they are, we’re there ready to have that conversation,” de Blasio said. “Because when you do that, you communicate that you are not an elite party. You’re not a party that’s out of touch. You’re a party of the majority if you’re willing to have the conversation with anyone.”

The mayor also railed against Trump’s tax reform plan. He argued that voters were “bamboozled last year,” referring to Trump’s victory in November 2016.

During the speech, de Blasio spoke about his connection to Iowa: his grandmother was born in Blanchard, Iowa in Page County in 1888. He also touted other first-term achievements, including the universal pre-K initiative, First Lady Chirlane McCray’s ThriveNYC mental health initiative, neighborhood policing, a decrease in overall crime and a reduction in the use of stop and frisk policing.

De Blasio described Democrats as the party of organized labor. But the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association sent roughly a dozen police officers to protest the mayor in Iowa. And the Transport Workers Union, an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also announced a “blistering campaign” including a series of digital ads, billboards and a full-page newspaper ad in the Des Moines Register featuring a cartoon caricature of the mayor as “Phony Bill,” a $3 bill with a human face.

De Blasio also went to Iowa in February 2016 to knock on doors for Clinton. Clinton and de Blasio did not meet, and the mayor did not give a surrogate speech.

He has made some inroads with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in recent months. In the lead-up to his re-election in November, de Blasio got major endorsements from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

In Iowa, de Blasio Tells Democratic Party to ‘Go to the People’