Two opposing approaches to governing divide today’s Democratic Party.
One focuses on class-based politics, wealth redistribution and defunding police. National Democrats have in many ways adopted this politically fraught and practically flawed proposition.
The other approach centers on unity, growing the economy for all, supporting businesses and reforming, rather than defunding law enforcement. Without question, this mode of governance should be the one the party adopts. And it is now resurging with the rise of Eric Adams, Gotham’s likely next mayor.
Adams promises to bring the city into a new era — one defined by pro-growth, pro-business and pro-public-safety policies.
He would take office at a pivotal point for the Big Apple. The pandemic, high taxes and anti-business practices have driven many firms — the most important source of jobs and revenue — out of the city. Crime rates and gun violence are on the rise. And after suffering the worst of the pandemic, the city needs to unite and rebuild.
Adams has vowed a change from the left-leaning reactionary politics of the current administration. Mayor Bill de Blasio is decidedly to the left of Adams, and his approach to governing has been defined by anti-business and anti-police policies.
“New York will no longer be anti-business,” Adams declared recently at SALT New York, an annual gathering of finance, technology and geopolitical leaders. Adams later emphasized that “the prerequisite to prosperity is safety” and promised to “create an environment of growth” in New York.
Yet the national Democratic Party has moved further toward redistributive economic policies that stifle growth, drive up the price of consumer goods and increase inflation.
To that end, national Democrats’ current approach — exemplified by their push to pass a massive $3.5 trillion spending plan — will crowd out the private economy, squeeze small business and punish working-class people, who suffer most from inflation.
To pursue this approach, the national Democratic Party has embraced an increasingly negative, partisan and exclusionary rhetoric. This messaging failure puts Democratic candidates in a politically perilous position ahead of the 2022 midterms.
To better understand how the two approaches can manifest in political discourse, we need look no further than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s turn as a fashionista at the Met Gala and her now-infamous “Tax the Rich” dress.
AOC stirred up a great deal of controversy. Few in the media failed to notice that individual tickets to the ultra-exclusive event cost $35,000, with tables starting at $200,000.
In response, Adams rightly noted that this was the wrong message and the wrong place, while also acknowledging that he and the congresswoman have somewhat similar economic ideas, though their approaches to effecting change are drastically different.
“When you talk about just blanketly saying tax rich in this city, we may have 8 million people, but 65,000 pay 51 percent of our income taxes,” Adams said when asked about the dress. “And if you say to those 65,000 to leave, then we’re not going to have the firefighters, the teachers, all of those basic things.”
The Democratic divergence was perfectly on display. Adams’ response embodies inclusive politics and represents a more practical approach to growing the economy and to governing — one we would implore national Democrats to embrace.
On the other hand, Ocasio-Cortez’s actions personify the problematic approach that national Democrats have begun taking — one that relies on class-based political warfare, redistribution as a viable economic model and economic disruption for disruption’s sake.
Ultimately, if national Democrats continue to adopt this approach, they will isolate the party from the broader electorate, making the Democrats’ loss of power in 2022 and 2024 a forgone conclusion.
Douglas Schoen is founder and partner in Schoen Cooperman Research, a polling and consulting firm whose past clients include President Bill Clinton and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Andrew Stein is a former New York City Council president, Manhattan borough president and state Assembly member.