New York Mayor Eric Adams is a rising power in the Democratic Party. A former police captain, Adams is the answer to the prayers of Democrats who have almost given up praying for a politics they can sell nationally.
Adams is a Black man, who, at age 15, was arrested and beaten up by police. His response: “I didn’t say, ‘Woe is me.’ I said, ‘Why not me?’” So he joined the force and advanced through the ranks.
“I support my police,” he says, “but they can’t be abusive.”
Adams is at war with a far left that doesn’t do well against witty retorts. The local media characterizes his spats with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a collision between “two ascending political stars.” The reality is that Adams has become a supernova while Ocasio-Cortez’s light is fading as Democrats grow tired of her politically toxic quotes.
At last year’s Met Gala, an annual fashion spectacular, Ocasio-Cortez grabbed attention by wearing a hugely expensive dress with the words “tax the rich” written on the back. At this year’s gala, Adams mocked her by wearing a tuxedo bearing the words “end gun violence.”
Adams is determined to stop the current crime wave. He’s trying to beef up the police department. He’s taking the homeless off the streets, whether they want to live there or not. He’s demanding respect for the rules.
As he put it: “You can’t have a city where someone has decided, ‘I’m just not going to pay. I’m just going to just walk on the bus. I’m just going to carry a gun. I’m going to take what I want out of stores.’”
Adams slams the left’s support of a bail reform law that lets judges send dangerous repeat offenders back on the streets. And he rejects accusations that he’s just sweeping the homeless out of sight.
To prosper, he explains, the city must address both the reality of crime and the perception of it. “You read the paper and you hear about someone that was hit on the head with a hammer while they entered a subway station,” he says. “Then you enter the station and you see (homeless) encampments. You see disorderly conduct. You see yelling and screaming. You see dirt and trash. Now what you read turns into your reality, even if you’re not a victim of a crime.”
Asked about those who disagree with him, Adams laughs: “New York — 8.8 million people, 30 million opinions — but one mayor. That’s what’s going to make the decisions.”
He cares not about running afoul of the word police. When Ocasio-Cortez harped on his reference to some workers as “low skill,” Adams chuckled. “I know they’re perfect, and there’s not much I can do about that.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s massive presence on social media masks how little real power she wields in the city. When Ocasio-Cortez endorsed left-winger Maya Wiley in last year’s mayoral primary, Adams accused them both of wanting “to shrink the police force at a time when Black and brown babies are being shot in our streets.”
Wiley didn’t even come in second. Another moderate, Kathryn Garcia, did.
Adams is progressive where it matters. He supports investment in education, child care and mental health services.
As for the homeless who say they fear the shelters, he has volunteers giving them brochures showing a cleaned-up facility where they can get meals, health care and a shower. That convinces many to go there voluntarily.
New Yorkers evidently back his efforts to restore pre-pandemic order to their city. The nation could use some of that, as well.
Adams has called himself “the face of the new Democratic Party.” The Democratic Party should hope he’s right.
Froma Harrop covers the waterfront of politics, economics and culture with an unconventional approach. She takes public policy quite seriously. Herself, less so.