A year ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio was struggling. His approval ratings were low and potential rivals were smelling blood. The carriage horse fiasco had hurt the mayor, while the taint of corruption haunted him.
But as 2016 drew to a close, de Blasio received an early, unexpected holiday gift. Donald Trump was elected president.
And suddenly, our sleepy mayor was energized. He will protect New Yorkers against this heartless ogre!
But isn’t homelessness still on the rise? And what about that nasty City Hall corruption scandal? Trump, the opposite of “no drama Obama,” has swept these stories off the front page.
Then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was putting heat on de Blasio about trading political favors for donations. The corruption probe was ongoing against the mayor, but last month he was suddenly pulled to safety.
Trump fired Bharara, who also was investigating Trump’s Health and Human Resources secretary, Tom Price, for allegedly improperly trading health care stocks. Five days later, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced there wouldn’t be any charges against de Blasio.
Meanwhile, New Yorkers disenchanted with the mayor now have a juicier target for their anger. Hey, maybe de Blasio isn’t so bad after all. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?
In August 2016, the mayor’s approval ratings had sunk to a dismal 42 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. By last month, the numbers had reversed, with 50 percent approving and just 42 percent disapproving of the Trump-bashing de Blasio.
So what once promised to be a dogfight for re-election seems to have turned into a leisurely stroll in the park for Mayor Bill. Potential Democratic opponents have retreated, and no strong Republican candidate has emerged. Although he’ll never admit it, you’d better believe the mayor knows when and why his fortunes suddenly turned.
So on Nov. 7, after de Blasio is elected to his second term, he will thank his wife, family and the other usual suspects. But you can safely bet he won’t be thanking the man who made it all possible: Donald Trump.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.