New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he thinks that most voters do see themselves as victims Wednesday morning, and that Democrats lost big in the midterms because of their unwillingness to address income inequality.
De Blasio was speaking with Mike Allen at Politico’s Playbook Breakfast in Washington, DC. He said that Democrats needed to focus more on economic populism, and that the conversation about economic inequality was missing from this most recent election cycle.
The financial crisis changed American politics in a deep way that most Democrats are failing to acknowledge, he argued, saying that “the income inequality crisis is the defining issue of our times” and that it is the issue that should “quintessentially define the Democrat party.”
Allen asked the mayor whether he thought most voters saw themselves as victims.
“Most voters see themselves right now as either stuck or falling backwards economically,” he responded. “In that way I would say yes.”
Allen repeatedly asked him about the presidential race in 2016, particularly about the potential candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren. De Blasio was reluctant to say anything about either woman, saying only that “the Democrat should speak to income inequality” and “be willing to challenge wealthy and powerful interests.” He did grant that Warren is “saying some very important things” and called hers an “indispensable” voice.
De Blasio admitted that Rand Paul is one of the most frightening Republicans to him in 2016. “He evinces a certain kind of authenticity that any Democrat should worry about,” he said, explaining that the American populace has “a deep yearning for authenticity” and that Paul’s willingness to stick to his philosophy “regardless of political convenience…makes him a stronger candidate than many.”
When asked for advice on raising a family, De Blasio belied his progressive politics.
“This is tremendously traditionalist,” he began. “I hope you’ll forgive me.” He said that a strong, loving home has been incredibly important for him and his family, though he was quick to add that “this is not a judgment on anyone.” But still, “a very strong, intact, loving marriage and home … I think that’s the ultimate strengthening [thing] for life.”
Back to campaign issues, he said that he thinks greater focus on environmental issues and climate change would “energize people to align with the Democrat party and get out and vote.”
Despite growing disapproval of his close relationship with Al Sharpton, De Blasio stood by his friend, whom he called “the leading civil rights figure in this country right now.” He challenged the validity of the polls illustrating this distaste (a recent Quinnipiac poll shows 32% of New Yorkers think Sharpton has too much influence on the mayor), and affirmed that he’s “very comfortable with the notion of turning to him and asking him for advice.”
“I think it’s overblown,” he said. “I think it’s overblown for a purpose. … [They] love the discussion to be about anything but what it is about, which is economic reality.” He further criticized what he called “the conventional media” and “its obsessions” when asked about the large differences in his approval ratings among different ethnic and racial groups.
“If all that is talked about in the public discourse is race, people will think about race.”