Photo: Taylor Hill / Getty Images
Eric Adams may be making headlines, but he wasn’t the only winner in last month’s Democratic primary. The Brooklyn Borough President’s success has also been a triumph for “everyday New Yorkers,” to hear him put it – the majority of locals whose political tastes are less spicy than those on the left. from the city. Most members of Adams’ coalition would happily trade a systemic overhaul for the duller flavors of incrementalism: a little more security, slightly better jobs, moderately improved schools.
Its base thus resembles that of the president, observes Ron Klain. “I think the coalition that Mr. Adams has formed in New York is no different from the coalition that President Biden has formed,” said the White House chief of staff. Told New York Time earlier this month. “A coalition of working class voters, overwhelmingly African American voters, and voters who want to see progress on fundamental issues.”
The so-called “Brooklyn Biden»Nods. “I was encouraged by what the president did”, Adams Told Jake Tapper Sunday. “And I knew what I was hearing on the pitch, that everyday New Yorkers were like everyday Americans. They wanted not a government with a simple ideological approach, but a pragmatic approach. “
But these claims should not be taken at face value. Any politician who suggests that pragmatism means being less ideological is selling something. Adams is no different.
Most experts interpret the Democratic candidate’s success through the prism of the police. From the ’80s to the mid’ 90s, Adams was a cop who loudly decried the racist excesses of the NYPD, angering his superiors and prompting inquiries into his conduct. By the time he launched his campaign for mayor, however, he was touting his good faith in policing and portraying himself as a more traditional policy of law and order. The strategy worked. In an era when crime is high on the list of concerns for New Yorkers, Adams has managed to be labeled in the press not only as the most decidedly pro-police candidate in the field, but as the final say on political prospects. doomed to NYPD funding failure.
He managed, in other words, to be described as the pragmatist of the field, a guy who refused to bow to unreasonable leftist ideologues and intruders, and instead spoke about the concerns of normal people. It was a blow on several fronts. Adams is now the de facto standard bearer against a move that most of his challengers have also opposed. (Even those who had supported the idea in the past rushed to walk away when the race began.) And he accomplished it while presenting his coalition of voters as the real and legitimate New Yorkers, that it is rewarded – unfortunately, for those who want less invasive and violent policing – with the promise that methods such as “stop and frisk” will remain on the table indefinitely.
Badly fund police surveys. It’s specious to view Adams’ success as a referendum on its merits, but it clearly reaffirms what we already knew: that politicians try to avoid unpopular positions, while activists tend to support them despite their unpopularity. .
It is also true that taking more widely adopted positions, such as expanding the scope of law enforcement, is neither inherently pragmatic nor less ideological. If calls for cop funding are dangerously doctrinaire, what about calls to reinvest money and resources in violent right-wing activists who only respond to democratically elected authorities when they want to?
If recent history shows us anything, it is that the police are not impartial guardians of public safety. They are fiercely ideological and even political, often in the most crudely partisan terms. This is evident in the routine behavior of the cops and their most visible political bodies: the police unions. Representatives of law enforcement labor organizations were staunch advocates of police impunity long before funding and abolition entered popular parlance, when all most people were asking for. was a core responsibility.
Most of these leaders categorically rejected even that. Some of their biggest successes in recent times have included coordinating protests against political regimes they said were questioning their authority. When Mayor Bill de Blasio attended the funeral of two NYPD officers killed in 2014, hordes of their comrades turned their backs in rebuke. When Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ administration in Atlanta backed the sacking of the cop who killed Rayshard Brooks, more than 170 officers took over the “blue fluIn protest, calling out the sick and leaving their jobs to be reduced.
Several acted as substitutes for then President Trump. The leaders of the largest police unions in New York, Milwaukee and Minneapolis supported him and spoke on his behalf after popular protests against police violence rocked their respective cities.
During protests in Chicago last year, a group of more than a dozen police stormed the campaign offices of Representative Bobby Rush. They looted the building’s food supply, kicked furniture, and in some cases took naps. When Rush and the mayor dared to suggest it was not acceptable, the head of the local police union defended its members and lambasted their critics.
The course of action for police officers and their unions, in all but the rarest cases, is that if the police do it, they must be right.
Even those who do not actively participate in political campaigns or quarrels with politicians express their sense of impunity in other ways. The prevalence of the “thin blue line” flag is a typical example. Popularized after a Ferguson cop killed Mike Brown in Missouri, the emblem was an unspoken rebuke from the Black Lives Matter protest movement that also served as a call to submit to law enforcement in all its forms.
It also functions as a banner of sovereignty – the cops are of the state, but also above it when they think it is beneficial to them. As Daunte Wright sat bleeding to death in her car after being shot by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, in April, the police station displayed the “thin blue line” flag above her seat. .
These examples suggest an ideology as well defined and persistent as any militant position on the funding of law enforcement. To say that giving the cops more money, supplies and responsibilities is just pragmatism contradicts the necessary endorsement of a form of reactionary authoritarianism.
It is in Eric Adams’ interest to push the idea that this is an intermediate position. His broad outlines have the support of the majority, and he has presented himself as the candidate of everyday New Yorkers. But it’s also an example of populist rhetoric being used as a cover for a vicious status quo policy. His popularity does not make him virtuous, nor less extreme.