On the steps of New York's 1811 City Hall, the 109th Mayor of New York took office today. Former President Bill Clinton administered the oath to Bill DeBlasio, his hand on FDR's Bible. After an effusive Grazie/Thank you to his family (including visiting Italian relatives), to the multi-faith corps of clergy who graced the ceremony with prayers, and the prominent politicians present - the Clintons, Governor Cuomo, and former Mayors Bloomberg and Dinkins, the Mayor quickly got down to business.
"We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love. And so today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York. And that same progressive impulse has written our city’s history. It’s in our DNA" the Mayor said, setting himself squarely in the city's progressive tradition of Al Smith, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Frances Perkins, and Fiorello LaGuardia.
"So let me be clear," the Mayor continued. "When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it."
He promised to expand the Paid Sick Leave law and guarantee that some 300,000 more new Yorkers will benefit from it. He promised to require developers to build more affordable housing, to stem the tide of hospital closures, and to expand community health centers, "so that New Yorkers see our city not as the exclusive domain of the One Percent, but a place where everyday people can afford to live, work, and raise a family."
And he promised to "ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day universal pre-K and after-school programs for every middle school student."
Like the Pope, he challenged so-called "trickle-down economics" and called for "rebuilding our communities from the bottom-up, from the neighborhoods up." In sum, the city he sees is one which "remembers our responsibility to each other." That last phrase, of course, captures the core conceptual difference from the ideology that has increasingly dominated our society, especially since the 1980s.
New York's new mayor may or may not succeed. But he has certainly articulated a more communitarian model for society in contrast to the individualism, consumerism, and libertarianism that have so corrupted our country and its politics.
Will the way New York goes once again become a model for where this country could go?