The Radicalism of Bill de Blasio

Published September 23, 2013

National Review Online

Today’s New York Times features an in-depth look at the radical background of Bill de Blasio, the man poised to become the next mayor of New York.

De Blasio is a longtime admirer and supporter of Nicaragua’s Marxist Sandinistas. He helped raise funds for the Sandinistas in the 1980s, subscribed to the party’s newspaper, Barricadda (Barricade), and unlike many others, remained supportive even after the Sandinistas lost power. To this day de Blasio speaks admiringly of the Sandinistas (while offering some token criticism of their handling of dissent), and remains interested in the Latin American left. De Blasio honeymooned in Cuba, in violation of the U.S. travel ban.

Asked about his goals for society at a meeting in 1990, de Blasio “said he was an advocate of ‘democratic socialism’”. Today he describes himself as “progressive,” yet also characterizes his views, in the eighties and today, as a mix of admiration for European social democratic movements, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and liberation theology.

Today’s Times profile focuses on de Blasio in the 1980s and early 1990s. As the piece ends, de Blasio is voicing distress at a newly-elected President Clinton’s efforts to pull the Democratic Party closer to the center. This was shortly after de Blasio had said he favored democratic socialism. So it makes sense that, according to a 2009 profile in City Limits, in the 1990s de Blasio served as Executive Director for New York branch of the New Party, a leftist third party that described itself as “social democratic” and had many prominent “democratic socialists” as members.

As I reported last year, President Obama was also a member of the New Party, and falsely denied this during his election and re-election campaigns. And as I laid it out in Radical-in-Chief, Obama’s political past shares many other parallel’s with Bill de Blasio.

ACORN, for example, represents an interesting point of connection between Obama’s radical past and de Blasio. ACORN exercised substantial de facto control over the leftist New Party. Former ACORN head Bertha Lewis has close ties to de Blasio and has predicted a comeback for ACORN’s successor group under a de Blasio administration. Patrick Gaspard, a former New Party staffer with close tiesto ACORN is not only a former Obama White House Political Director, but is one of de Blasio’s closest friends, and played a central role in shaping de Blasio’s campaign for the Democratic mayoral nomination.

Joe Lhota, the Republican mayoral nominee, has called de Blasio a “radical,” and plans to emphasize his leftism in the campaign. As today’s New York Times profile makes clear, Lhota is not exaggerating. The leftist world of ACORN, the New Party, and Sandinista-supporting activists is looking less-and-less like some long-gone relic of Obama’s past and more-and-more like the future of the Democratic Party.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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