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A campaign lesson for progressive leadership in Australia

By Gerard May - posted Monday, 24 November 2014


There is something remarkable happening in New York that aspiring progressive leaders who seek to make a mark on the political landscape in Australia can learn from.

The current Democratic Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, won the mayoral election last year by a landslide gaining 73% of the majority vote becoming the first democratic mayor of the city since 1993.

De Blasio is not your typical democrat that we are used to viewing from the other side of the world; like Bill Clinton or Barrack Obama. Instead, he is a genuine progressive.

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Mayors in the United States have great responsibility and power. They have overall responsibility for departments like sanitization, police, fire, corrections, education, paramedics and much more.

I learned about the mayor's influence first hand while attending a political rally where high-powered politicians spoke, including two United States Senators. The Mayor had top billing.

Even picking up the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times or any other daily you regularly witness the mayor holding the political center stage.

The reason is the New York mayor is one of the most powerful political positions in the world. The numbers speak for why. With 8.3 million people and GDP of 609.4 billion dollars, New York City has a budget of a staggering 67,533 million dollars. Now for the first time since people can recall - there is a genuine progressive in charge.

Living in New York for the past three months I've witnessed him sticking true to his progressive agenda. This led me to do some research. To ascertain whether during his 2013 mayor campaign de Blasio played the safer middle ground that we are so used to seeing those on the left running to be elected in Australia.

After completing my research I found he ran a strong leftist campaign. De Blasio called his campaign a "Tale of Two Cities".

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De Blasio preached a hike on income tax on New Yorkers earning $500,000 or more from 3.8% to 4.3%; to pay for universal pre-school. His opponent, a republican named Lhota would not.

Lhota wanted to continue the previous mayor's policy of closing failing schools, while de Blasio said failing schools should be fixed, not shut down.

Lhota vowed to keep Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, while de Blasio pledged to replace Kelly, calling him "the architect of the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has had such a negative effect on the relationship between police and ... many communities of color."

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About the Author

Gerard May was a union official in Australia before moving to New York where he has had opinion pieces published in City Limits New York Magazine. He can be followed at @GerardMay5.

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