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Have you ever wondered why moments end?
I wrote about the Irish Moment and the Jewish Moment and the Gay Moment on Saturday. Three Moments enjoyed by identifiable groups of Americans. Moments that ended when the groups joined the main plot of the American story, leaving the artistic sub-plot to the next in line.
Demographics offer only one kind of Moment, though. There are cultural moments and fashion moments and, of course, political moments.
These Moments of the Mind cycle much faster than demographics. And political moments ebb and flow repeatedly. Progressives. Conservatives. Populists. Conservatives. Progressives. In 1996, Pat Buchanan was a viable candidate for President, but the Republicans countered Clinton’s populism with an old 1970s-style Establishment candidate in Bob Dole. (The GOP has never had a good ear for the music of Moments.)
Another difference between demographics and politics: demographic Moments end when the people experience the Moment succeed. Political Moments, on the other hand, end when the people associated with the moment fail.
Like a rampaging bull market in stocks, the dominant political ideology finally reaches maximum strength–then falls back like cresting wave.
A lot of people thought that Barack Obama represented that peak and that Obamacare was the failure that broke it. I’m not so sure. But I do think the progressive wave is cresting. The fallback–the crash–is coming.
And its name is Bill de Blasio.
To explain my feelings, I’ll have to go back to my childhood when I first became aware of the world beyond St. Louis and Epiphany and the Hennessys of Scanlan Avenue.
New York City: The Seventies
Once upon a time, New Yorkers elected a “progressive” Republican mayor named John Lindsay. As William F. Buckley once said [paraphrasing], Lindsay and Lowell Weicker were Young Republicans together back when the destruction of New York City was just a gleam in Lindsay’s eye.
William Buckley was so fearful of what a Lindsay administration would do to New York, he ran as a Conservative Party candidate to throw the election to the Democrat. (Take THAT you GOP establishment hacks!) Buckley failed, alas. Lindsay won. New York nearly died. Many New Yorkers did.
Lindsay served two terms as mayor of New York–one as a progressive Republican, one as a plain old progressive. In those eight years, New York became a laughing stock. Trash piled in streets, traffic snarled everywhere, constant strikes, and massive debt symbolized the Lindsay era. Lindsay more than tripled New York City’s spending between 1967 and 1974.
Lindsay left an unmanageable city with unmanageable finances. Abe Beam, who followed Lindsay in Gracie Mansion, asked the US government for a bailout in 1975. President Gerald Ford’s response: “Drop dead.” According to Paul Rahe on Ricochet:
By that time, of course, Lindsay had skipped out, and he had left Abraham Beame, who was elected Mayor in 1973, holding the bag. There was some justice to this, given that Beame had been City Comptroller during Lindsay’s second term, when the spending was completely out of control. Everyone knew, however, that it was Lindsay who had spent the city into the ground. In 1967, the city budget was $4.6 billion; in 1971, it was $7.8 billion. By 1974, the year Beame took over, it was $10 billion. Lindsay introduced the city’s first income tax and commuter tax, but the revenues he raised were never enough. By 1974, the annual budget deficit had climbed to $1.5 billion. Fred Siegel got it right when he described Lindsay as the worst Mayor New York had in the twentieth century and went on to remark that he “wasn’t incompetent or foolish or corrupt, but he was actively destructive.”
But Beame, and successor Ed Koch, managed to save the city the old fashioned way: they cut spending, reduced the government’s regulatory footprint, and began an assault on crime.
Lindsay employed an all-out liberal experiment on New York City and it failed. It took a long time for New Yorkers to admit defeat, but they did in 1993. Twenty years later, they have decided to roll the dice with progressive liberalism again, this time with Bill de Blasio. He comes to office with hard left agenda, not unlike Lindsay’s:
De Blasio, who will take over from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and will be the first Democrat to lead the city in two decades, won a resounding victory in November after campaigning to confront economic inequality, improve police and community relations and expand access to city services like pre-kindergarten.
Two-thirds of city voters say they are hopeful about de Blasio, while nearly six in 10 voters think he will change New York for the better, the poll by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion showed.
If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on a repeat of the Lindsay fiasco. New York City will be a worse place to live, visit, and do business after de Blasio’s administration.
To back up my prediction of New York’s downfall, I’ll also schedule a blog linking to this one. It will post on December 26, 2017.