William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.
Two New Yorks.
One rich, greedy and Manhattan-centric; the other struggling, exploited and living in the boroughs. If we could just squeeze a little more out of those fat cats, everything would be copacetic. That's Bill de Blasio's message.
If it sounds familiar, it should. It was the message Fernando Ferrer used unsuccessfully in his 2005 mayoral run. John Edwards tried it as "two Americas" in his 2004 presidential race. Finally it succeeded, with Barack Obama's flourishes about corporate-jet owners and millionaires and billionaires.
The thread that ran through all these campaigns? The candidates employed consultants from David Axelrod and Associates.
Axelrod felt pretty sure about that message. He should have. Politics is the art of creating victims and villains, of pitting voters against one another. Or as Groucho Marx quipped (quoting British writer Ernest Benn), "of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies."
In de Blasio's case, the remedies include raising taxes in a city with the highest income taxes in America, demonizing a police department that made New York the country's safest large city and convincing working people that the deck is stacked against them.
De Blasio's class war apparently appeals to lots of New Yorkers, but it flies in the face of reality. People vote with their feet, and over 20 years, under Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg, New York City has added a million residents. The city has never been more populous.
Things must really be awful.
When I was kid, class war radicals used to hijack airplanes and order them to Cuba. A decade later, the waters off Florida were filled with rafts. Sums it up nicely.
A lot of those refugees, not just from Cuba but from failed leftist countries worldwide, have made it to New York. They'll be the toughest voters for de Blasio to corral, assuming he survives a possible runoff and faces Republican Joe Lhota in November. They've heard this message before. They've lived it.
It will be up to Lhota to remind them and other New Yorkers why they came here in the first place. It will be up to Lhota to hold New York together as a single city. If he can, he'll win.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican political consultant.