By EDDIE BORGES
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has become the Rodney Dangerfield of American politics: He don’t get no respect.
The mayor has been competing for the mantle of America’s Top Progressive for years, but no matter how hard he tries, he never survives past the first episode of the reality show that Democratic Party presidential politics has become in our time.
Then out of left field, or more specifically, the South Bronx, a charismatic 28-year-old Democratic Socialist emerged who has accomplished in two months what De Blasio has not been able to accomplish since his election.
Within days of her upset victory in the Democratic congressional primary in the Queens and the Bronx in June, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has became the voice of progressive American politics.
It started with appearances on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The View and The Daily Show. Now, if any reporter, producer or television booker needs a progressive talking head, Ocasio-Cortez is the name on the top of all their lists.
What really must have hurt De Blasio was when a campaign rally for James Thompson in Wichita, Kansas, had to change venues after news got out that Ocasio-Cortez was flying in. The theater that had been booked could only hold 1,500 people. The new site barely held the 4,000 people who showed up to see the Bronx Bomber.
When De Blasio tried to organize a progressive forum for presidential candidates in Iowa in 2015, no one responded to his invitations. He was forced to cancel the event.
Then, the following year, he was booked into a six-minute afternoon speaking slot in a half-empty convention center in Philadelphia—while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was elected as a Republican and later switched his registration to Independent, got a primetime speaking slot.
The closest De Blasio is likely to get to a primetime slot at the 2020 Democratic Party convention is if he offers to carry Ocasio-Cortez’s briefcase.
There’s not just a little irony here. A working-class Puerto Rican like Ocasio-Cortez, holding a degree with honors in economics and international relations, could never have gotten a job in de Blasio’s City Hall.
The evidence is in the reports City Hall is required to file with the federal government every two years. Bill de Blasio has a bias against hiring the Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Mexicans who together comprise nearly a third of the city’s population.
Therein lies the problem with de Blasio’s politics: They are unconcerned with supporting the community empowerment of Latinos, the second-largest racial/ethnic group in the city, who are also New York’s poorest residents. That is not progressive politics.
But since Latinos are as invisible to most New York media outlets as they are in local government, Ocasio-Cortez got as little attention in the local papers as they have gotten in City Hall.
Now, with bated breath, we will see if Ocasio-Cortez is the tipping point that brings broad attention to the crisis of childhood poverty in New York, which officials like Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez have been working on for so many years.
It is an economic time bomb. Half the youth in this city are Latino, and half of them live at or below the federal poverty line. When they grow up, they are most likely to continue being poor and not contributing to the regional economy.
This is not just a local issue; New York contributes 10 percent to the GDP. Maybe, now that we have an Ocasio-Cortez, we can finally have a conversation about what progressive politics can do to resolve this crisis.
This is a conversation that for the first time in many years will include the people hit hardest by this crisis.