New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has demonstrated leadership skills that will stand to him if he runs for President in 2016.
This is Bill de Blasio’s New York now, the de Blasio who wasn’t so much the Democratic candidate in this election as he was the candidate of the 99 Percent and Occupy Wall Street and Zuccotti Park. This is a small basement room at the Holyrood Episcopal Church on W. 179th St. in Washington Heights, between Broadway and Fort Washington Ave.
There is a “Vote Aqui” sign on the outside wall, old-fashioned paper ballots to fill out inside. And there is, in the late morning, a slow, steady procession of people from this neighborhood, the ones who believe de Blasio when he tells them that he will be the mayor of them before anybody else.
Matthew Thompson, black, 71, and a retired truck driver, comes walking slowly from the corner of Fort Washington, leaning hard on the cane in his right hand, saying he has walked down here from W. 189th St. to vote for Bill de Blasio for mayor.
You ask Thompson what message from de Blasio resonated the most with him and he says, “Stop-and-search.”
Just inside the doorway, he passes William Chester, black, 74, whose first vote for a New York City mayor was cast for John Lindsay.
“I can’t tell you every single thing (de Blasio) said I agreed with,” Chester said in this church room. “But when de Blasio did talk, he seemed to be talking directly to me.”
Bill de Blasio ran and won out of rooms exactly like this, neighborhoods like this, so many of them filled with people of color, all the ones who turned him into the people’s champ over the last two months of this political season, one of the most surprising, because of the way he ran away with it, the city has ever seen.
Now we will begin to find out if Bill de Blasio, suddenly beloved by so many who weren’t giving him a second look last summer, can actually lead as well as he campaigned, be strong somewhere other than an amazingly weak field.
He ran a brilliant campaign against Michael Bloomberg and against what Matthew Thompson of Washington Heights called “stop-and-search” on Election Day in New York; ran like someone who saw the possibilities of Zuccotti Park and Occupy Wall Street and turned it into a real political movement and not just loud, vague possibilities.
But on this day when he won as big as he did, he would have been best served looking at another big runaway winner on Tuesday, from the other side of the George Washington Bridge that is right in front of you at Holyrood Episcopal. That means New Jersey, and Chris Christie, who has become the kind of leader over there who should make smart Republicans want to run him for President.
We knew nothing about how much game Christie had when he beat Jon Corzine, the way we know nothing about de Blasio’s qualifications to actually run a city the way Christie has run his state. What we have found out about Christie, though, is that he is a natural-born leader, the kind who doesn’t care whose feelings he hurts if he thinks he is right and needs to get things done.
You will always remember Christie walking with President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, unafraid to stand next to the incumbent President running from the other party. Mostly you remember Christie looking like the bigger man that day, in all ways. “I wanted a second term to finish the job and now watch me do it,” Christie said on the night when he won with 60% of the vote this time, a number the whole country saw.
Bill de Blasio, with huge numbers of his own, has to show he can lead, do more than make promises he can’t keep about raising taxes on the wealthy because that sounded good running against Bloomberg; somehow command respect in Albany and in Washington, D.C., as well. Starting now, de Blasio has to do something more than be carried along by the roar of the crowd, and loyal opposition to rich white New York.
“Let me be clear,” de Blasio said in Brooklyn Tuesday night, “our work is just beginning, and we have no illusions about the task that lies ahead. Tackling inequality is never easy.”
“The people of this city have chosen a progressive path,” he said. “Together we set forth on it as one city,” before he began to speak in Spanish to the crowd, and the crowd did roar in Brooklyn.
President Obama, whose politics are de Blasio’s, has always had the words, has not become a great leader. Christie is that kind of leader in Jersey, whether you agree with all of his politics or not. He does more than talk a good game. Now we find out if Mayor de Blasio can do the same.