This week, Bill de Blasio’s presidential campaign, a project that has generated all the promise and enthusiasm of an afternoon in small-claims court, announced that its candidate had received his first endorsements. You might assume that those endorsements came from local elected officials, because that is so often the way of things. They did not. Beto O’Rourke, he of bass guitars and El Paso, has gained more support from New York congressional representatives in his own presidential bid than the mayor of New York City.
Ordinarily, career politicians with outsize ambitions have succeeded in the fundamental business of forging alliances that will grease their ascent long before they decide to run for president. They have made friends at work; they have ingratiated themselves to those who embody a kind of human value proposition.
Amy Klobuchar has fellow Minnesotan and former vice president Walter Mondale behind her. Elizabeth Warren has her colleague Senator Ed Markey among many others. Joe Biden and Cory A. Booker have 20 prominent Democrats divided evenly between them, many from their home states.
Mr. de Blasio, though, has had to search a bit further afield. He can now successfully claim to have corralled the formal affections of Michael Butler, the mayor of Orangeburg, S.C., a city with a population of 13,000. A local councilman in the area, Willie B. Owens, endorsed him as well, a development that occasioned its own news release from the de Blasio campaign.
In contrast, earlier this year, a few weeks after Senator Kamala Harris of California announced her candidacy, she secured the endorsement of Dolores Huerta, who founded what would become the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez. This was an impressive acquisition given that the senator is a relatively moderate liberal. The third of Mr. de Blasio’s endorsements also came from big labor, but here, too, there are qualifiers.
When the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council endorsed the mayor, the union’s president pointed out that the mayor “fought back and pushed back against Airbnb every single step of the way, and he continues to do it.” If you are of the mind that homesharing is a threat to American well-being on a continuum somewhere between obesity and North Korea, then this is probably just the sort of imprimatur you are looking for.
What makes Mr.de Blasio’s candidacy so perplexing is that he seems so alone at the lunch table. We knew from observing his ongoing antics with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a relationship forged out of the plot of a young-adult novel, that the mayor has no trouble alienating people he needs, and that maybe some part of him even enjoys it. But did we expect someone with such a cultivated sense of transaction to come up so short on getting politicians from his own hometown to stand up and perform a little love for him?
At this point, Mr. de Blasio’s entry into the 2020 race is fascinating chiefly as a matter of psychology. This week, the website FiveThirtyEight looked at May polling data to determine the relationship between candidates’ net favorability ratings and the share of Democrats with opinions about those candidates.
Among 21 candidates, Mr. de Blasio was alone in having a negative net favorability. Essentially the analysis found that more members of Mr. de Blasio’s own party dislike rather than appreciate him.
Over the past few years, pundits, editors, operatives and citizens at large have obsessed over the question: Why do New Yorkers so intensely dislike Mr. de Blasio? The antipathy is visceral even when they share his vision of how the world ought to evolve.
Typically, the answer lands on “arrogance,’’ but there is much more to it than that, given all the arrogance we accommodate in our political culture Mr. de Blasio arrives essentially as a foreign object, unrelatable in his imperviousness to justified criticisms of his failings at a time when the rest of us are engaged in the relentless, diminishing project of self-polling that social media encourages.
This remains especially true perhaps for those in the news media, where metrics increasingly supply the measure of professional success. and where the distaste for Mr. de Blasio is so pervasive. Who has the luxury anymore to ignore what people think of you or what you do? How many talented people feel stymied to pursue this or that ambition because their insecurities get the best of then — because Instragram has not provided the kind of fan base they might have anticipated?
And yet there is Bill de Blasio — dismissed, discredited and yet convinced that he alone can alter the fortunes of working families as president of the United States, even as he has allowed a lead crisis to contaminate New York City’s public housing, acquiesced over and over to real-estate interests and kept from pressing for more transparency and accountability from the police department. What gives him the confidence? This is what rankles — that he maintains it in the absence of much evidence that he deserves it. He is the Naomi Wolf of American politics — secure in his delusions, he persists.
Mr. de Blasio’s campaign website lists no policy positions or platforms. When I asked his campaign spokeswoman, Olivia Lapeyrolerie, about this, she responded that the campaign was still in a nascent stage, and that it remained confident that “the mayor’s record and experience will resonate with voters as it has done in the last 10 elections he has won.”
After a quick finger count of Mr. de Blasio’s races, I could only come up with six — and that included the three times he was elected to City Council. His spokeswoman admitted she was including races for school board and primaries.
It is curious that Mr. de Blasio has not come right out of the gate with a proposal to address what is poised to be a major issue in the coming election: housing affordability. Senators Booker and Warren have been the most aggressive on this front. The crisis around housing, one that afflicts so many parts of the country, was responsible in large part for propelling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to her congressional victory. It is also what drove the ambush against Amazon’s plan to colonize an already-gentrifying part of Queens with a massive second headquarters.
This was an ambush Mr. de Blasio was unable to anticipate even as he presides over a city suffering one of the most acute housing shortages in the country. What are the lessons learned?