I’m in a N.Y. state of mind
This city of New York, this snarling, maddening, unforgettable, lovable metropolis, and Boston are like chalk and cheese. Ebony and ivory. Oscar and Felix.
We move right, they move left. They go high, we go low.
We are poised to replace an Italian mayor, they stand to elect one.
The mayor’s race in Boston is tight and, the unfair rap goes, boring, with voters trying to figure out the real, substantive, ultimate difference between Marty Walsh and John Connolly.
New Yorkers are more decisive, always have been, and their mayor’s race has been over for weeks, long before next week’s actual vote. You can’t find a bookie from Queens to Manhattan, from Staten Island to the Bronx who would take money on the idea that Joe Lhota has a chance against Bill de Blasio.
The right-wingers at the New York Post are positively apoplectic that de Blasio, an unabashed liberal and proud member of the Democrats’ left wing, is poised to swamp the Republican candidate. Lhota’s problem, among several, is that all those guys on Wall Street who give him succor and big fat checks then get on the commuter trains for New Jersey and Westchester every night.
De Blasio’s message, that New York has lost the plot, that the gap between rich and poor has grown wider than the East River, that working people are working more and making less and that rich people are making way too much may sound like class warfare to some, but it sounds like the truth to a lot of New Yorkers.
Born in Manhattan, de Blasio grew up in Cambridge, a place that, for all the fun we like to poke at it for its We Are The World attitude, actually has a conscience. I could wax lyrical about the guy’s stand-up attitude about the poor and the working poor. But let’s consider something that translates when half of Boston, half of Massachusetts, half of New England, is setting their body clocks, their family clocks, around the Red Sox run for the World Series.
That Bill de Blasio will be the next mayor of New York is not entirely surprising. That he’s a Red Sox fan? Now that’s surprising. It also tells you more than a little about the guy.
He knows what it means to say Yaz, or Rico Petrocelli, or Jim Lonborg or “The Impossible Dream,” which was his campaign when it began months ago.
Seeking the mayoralty of New York, de Blasio could have done the easy thing and renounced his citizenship in Red Sox Nation. No one would begrudge him it, and it would have made political sense. The man he is about to replace, Mike Bloomberg, of the Medford Bloombergs, did exactly that. Before he got elected, Bloomberg was a Red Sox fan. After he was elected mayor, he became a Yankees fan.
But de Blasio wouldn’t do it because it would be a lie. His son, the kid with the big Afro who helped turn the campaign around in a simple video, was raised a Sox fan. You don’t mess with that. Even Yankee fans respect that.
De Blasio is running on principle in a city that longs for a little more of that.
New York is sliding backward. After the city became a lot more livable, in part because of the policies of another Bostonian, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, New York has that angst again. If you didn’t read Ian Frazier’s gut-wrenching piece in last week’s The New Yorker about the city’s burgeoning homeless problem, do yourself a favor. It is achingly Dickensian, a ringing indictment of complacency.
In all its promise, Bill de Blasio’s election will demonstrate the vast differences between Boston and New York.
We are at least a generation away from the day when some person could move to Boston from Queens or Brooklyn or the Bronx, live in Boston for half their adult life, and have a real shot at becoming mayor.
Even then, they’ll have to be a Sox fan.
Kevin Cullen is a columnist for The Boston Globe.