A Tale of Two Parties

The New York Times would tell us that their city’s mayoral race will indicate the direction of the Democratic Party. Try Buffalo and Virginia instead.

It appears that Eric Adams may be the next Mayor of New York. We won’t be sure for about a month because this is the city’s first election under it’s new ranked choice voting system. Despite the delay in the results, that’s a system that holds promise for producing more moderate candidates, and we should try it in Wisconsin.

Adams, if he does indeed become the Democratic nominee and therefore a lock to win the general election in deep blue New York, probably prevailed because he ran on a public safety platform. A former cop seemed like a good choice even to liberal New Yorkers who are worried about a big uptick in shootings in their city.

But New York is so unlike the rest of America that I’m not sure it really tells us much of anything about what might happen in 2022. Better indicators are the elections in New York’s second largest city, Buffalo, and in the Virginia governor’s race.

In Buffalo, a 38-year old newcomer and Socialist, India Walton, defeated the four-term establishment backed incumbent Mayor Byron Brown in the Democratic primary, which is again pretty much the whole ballgame. It was a shocker reminiscent of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s take down of long-term establishment liberal, and Democratic Caucus Chair, Joe Crawley in the Bronx in 2018.

New Buffalo Mayor India Walton.

So, that’s one direction the party is taking: hard left. But that’s only happening in some deep blue urban areas. In statewide elections, Democrats who win tend to be much more moderate. A couple of weeks ago, Terry McAuliffe, the most establishment moderate imaginable, easily won his party’s primary over much more progressive opponents. He’s got a good chance of returning to the governor’s office in November.

And, here in Wisconsin, Tony Evers is generally considered more moderate than the activists in his party while the party’s national leader, Joe Biden, was decidedly more centrist than his most serious rivals for the nomination.

The lesson? What works in deep blue cities won’t work in races with broader voter bases. AOC and India Walton could not win a race for Governor of New York. In order to win governor and U.S. Senate races, the Democrats will have to nominate left-center candidates.

So far, the white-hot anger over all things Trump has kept the Democratic coalition together, uniting the fire-breathing hard-left and the mainstream moderates. “Anybody But the Republican” is working to keep the Dems focussed, and I would expect that to continue next year.

What concerns me more is what hard-left office holders might do or say between now and then. If they keep talking about socialism and “defunding the police” then you can be sure that the Republicans will hang that around the necks of every Democratic candidate, no matter how reasonable he or she might be.

Walton is the first socialist to run a major American city since Frank Zeidler retired as Mayor of Milwaukee in 1960. But Zeidler was the last in a long line of Milwaukee’s “sewer socialist” mayors. Their focus was on frugal, honest and efficient government that built stuff and provided excellent basic services — like sewers.

So, if that’s the kind of socialist the new Mayor of Buffalo becomes, that works for me. The best thing Mayor-elect India Walton can do for the causes she believes in is to focus on curbing crime and plowing the snow.

Welcome to the 129th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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