New York City and State have a political problem: the hijacking of their governing institutions by the hard Left. Our special section, “New York’s New Masters,” describes the key players and what they’re doing-and promising to do-that threatens to cloud the future of city and state alike. The best-known figure is, of course, Gotham’s radical mayor Bill de Blasio, who wants to go national with his “Progressive Agenda” to battle inequality, even as the city’s crime rate and welfare rolls spike. As Myron Magnet argues in “The Politics of Delusion,” the mayor’s plan-cooked up with a cabal of leading leftists, including former Acorn activist Emma Wolfe and ex-Obama green-jobs czar Van Jones-offers a prosperity-killing array of policy ideas, from a $15 minimum wage to union-friendly labor laws to big tax hikes on “the rich” (read: much of the middle class-in New York, anyway) to a rollback of welfare reform. Behind the agenda is a more fundamental error, says Magnet: de Blasio’s Tale of Two Cities itself, in which wealthy white New York purportedly keeps a poor minority New York down, starved of opportunity and oppressed by racist police. It’s a vision completely at odds with the rebirth of New York as the Opportunity City of the last two decades, with historically low crime and a vital, diversifying economy.
In “Inspector Gotcha,” Walter Olson profiles de Blasio’s counterpart on the state level: New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, first elected in 2010 and winning a second term last year. Benefiting from nearly $1 million in union financing, the aggressive AG has used his office to pursue targets (supposedly bigoted banks; the new sharing economy; fast-food companies; and more) despised by many on the left, and his methods have raised serious questions of fairness and capriciousness, Olson shows. Given the difficulty of unseating sitting attorneys general-last year, not a single incumbent AG lost a general election bid-New Yorkers may have to deal with Schneiderman for years.
Both Mayor de Blasio and AG Schneiderman have long associations with 1199SEIU, “The Union That Rules New York,” as Daniel DiSalvo and Stephen Eide contend in their comprehensive essay on the labor group, the final part of our special package. In the 1930s, 1199 began life as a small union of drugstore clerks and pharmacists, grew into a force in the 1960s as it expanded into nursing homes and hospitals, and merged with the Service Employees International Union in 1998, making it the largest union local in the United States. A training ground for state officials and politicians, whom it then gets elected with its massive campaign war chest, 1199SEIU now has a tentacular reach into every corner of city and state politics. Its goals aren’t confined to helping the workers it represents financially; it also pursues “progressive” causes like hiking taxes, fighting climate change, and curbing Broken Windows policing. With onetime employee de Blasio at the pinnacle of New York City politics, the union’s power has never been greater. DiSalvo and Eide offer a road map for understanding that influence-and show how it might be checked.
New contributing editor Adam J. White’s “Is American Government in Decay?” explores the recent arguments of social theorist Francis Fukuyama and other critics, who see the United States sinking into a morass of elite cronyism and rigid partisanship, preventing needed reforms that competitors, like autocratic China, can achieve far more easily. White thinks that these worries mistake typical democratic muddling and the checks and balances of constitutional government for a deep existential crisis of the American republic. Time, he believes, will prove the U.S. capable of managing its problems consensually, just as our Founders intended.
On the state level, pro-growth policies are winning, thanks to the surging success of Republican gubernatorial and legislative candidates elected in an ongoing pushback against President Obama’s progressivism. As Steven Malanga details in “The State GOP Wave,” Republican governors now rule in 31 states and GOP lawmakers control 30 state legislatures, giving them the chance to pursue bold tax reforms, slash regulatory tangles, and create a template for twenty-first-century American renewal. As the next presidential cycle begins, Republican hopefuls should take heed.
—Brian C. Anderson