By Ed Morales on Feb 5, 2014
The nation may be turning leftward.
The election of Bill de Blasio, an openly progressive politician, as mayor of New York has been the clearest signal of this much-needed shift in direction.
Leading a coalition of upscale liberals, working families and disenfranchised poor minorities, de Blasio won a mandate of progressive taxation, labor union advocacy, and scaling back the excesses of outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Wall Street-friendly neoliberalism.
De Blasio’s message of hope to the majority that has suffered under the 30-year rightward shift of American politics is reminiscent of the dawn of Barack Obama’s presidency. But while Obama was laid low by the opposition party, de Blasio does not have to contend with a hostile legislative body intent on slowing the process of government to a crawl.
The new mayor will be working with a city council that has very few Republicans and is largely controlled by members of its Progressive Caucus. The council speaker position is held by de Blasio ally Melissa Mark-Viverito, one of that caucus’s founders. Members of the council have already appeared at demonstrations to increase wages for workers, and de Blasio has plans to increase taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay for universal pre-kindergarten education for the city’s children.
Another example of the left turn in American politics is Kshama Sawant, an open socialist who won a seat on Seattle’s city council in November. In her response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, Sawant blamed the failure of Democrats to aggressively confront wealth inequality and for increasing poverty.
A central tenet of Sawant’s platform is a demand for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. The movement for such an increase has had success in several cities across the country, with workers for corporate giants like McDonald’s and Walmart leading the way.
What we are witnessing in the victories of DeBlasio and Sawant and in the push for a living wage is an increasingly self-aware bloc of American voters who want to move the nation’s agenda further to the left.
The tea party had its time. Now the left is on the march.
Ed Morales is a contributor to The New York Times and Newsday and is the author of “Living in Spanglish.” He can be reached at email@example.com. Copyright Ed Morales.