Remember that this guy has loudly proclaimed himself the moderate new face of the Democratic Party, the pragmatist with the guts to tell the wokesters to pipe down. He was true to his brand after the City Council approved a bill last month allowing legal immigrants (green-card holders, DACA enrollees) to vote in all New York City elections so long as they’ve resided in the city for 30 days. Adams didn’t like that last part for understandable reasons. If you’re going to have a say in the political direction of your community, you should prove first that you have a long-term interest in it. Requiring citizenship to vote serves the same purpose, demanding a commitment of full allegiance to the United States for a say in shaping its policies.
Speculation began that Adams might try to block the new law, viewing it as an opportunity to establish his brand as a different kind of Democrat. After all, no major city in the United States allows non-citizens to vote in all municipal elections. Some smaller cities in blue states do, and San Francisco allows them to vote in school-board elections. It would be bizarre if the brash new centrist mayor of NYC let his hometown be the first to radically reimagine the civic requirements for democratic participation.
But now it’s happened. Last night came the announcement: Adams surrenders.
“I believe that New Yorkers should have a say in their government, which is why I have and will continue to support this important legislation. While I initially had some concerns about one aspect of the bill, I had a productive dialogue with my colleagues in government that put those concerns at ease. I believe allowing the legislation to be enacted is by far the best choice, and look forward to bringing millions more into the democratic process.”
What was said during that “productive dialogue” to convince him to change his mind? Adams hasn’t told. When Jake Tapper pushed him on the matter this morning, he still wouldn’t get specific.
Jake Tapper, on NYC bill allowing non-citizens to vote in municipal elections: "Doesn’t the bill make the mockery of the idea of American citizenship? This is just for local elections but does that mean next New York City will want non-citizens to vote in federal elections?" pic.twitter.com/SnSNhKysGW
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) January 9, 2022
“Dems want to lose the midterms,” said Amanda Carpenter of Adams’s position. “This is going to do lots of damage nationally.” Indeed. It’s of a piece with “defund the police,” protracted school closures, and CRT, all of which reinforce voters’ suspicions that putting Democrats in charge means radical experimentation with local institutions. Adams was supposed to be the antidote to that. Blue cities like San Francisco might be out of control, beset by smash-and-grab looting in broad daylight, but New York was bringing back common sense and a firm hand. Now here he is outdoing even SF in his willingness to condone radically progressive changes to the electoral system.
I’ll be surprised if NYC’s new law doesn’t become a talking point at Trump’s rallies to further convince Republicans not to trust elections (unless the Republican candidate wins, of course). Given how casually most Americans follow the news, it’s a cinch that many will hear about New York’s policy and assume that even illegal immigrants there are allowed to vote now. Not so, but who could fault any voter for believing that that’s next on the left’s agenda?
Two possibilities now. One is that Adams will end up governing further to the left across the policy spectrum than his campaign rhetoric suggested, which would give him something in common with the president of the United States. Two is that Adams is picking his battles, earning a bit of political capital with progressives here in anticipation of clashing with them on matters nearer to his heart. Case in point, his handpicked police commissioner has begun to jab at the progressive DA in Manhattan:
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell sent an e-mail to cops on Friday saying she’s “concerned” for their safety in light of the progressive policies announced this week by the new Manhattan district attorney that some see as soft on crime.
“I have studied these policies and I am very concerned about the implications to your safety as police officers, the safety of the public and justice for the victims,” Sewell wrote in the email obtained by The Post…
Sewell, who also recently started in her role after being appointed by new Mayor Eric Adams, said the progressive approach will erode quality of life in the city, and sends a message to police officers that they are not protected.
Adams won the mayoral primary narrowly. If progressive support hadn’t been divided among several of his opponents, he might have lost. He may be anticipating a primary challenge already in 2025, especially if he’s true to his word about governing from the center on matters like crime and bringing business back to New York. If he fights the City Council on letting non-citizens vote, there’s a chance that he’ll lose that fight, look weak during the first month of his term, and make enemies of non-citizen voters. (Who make up something like 10 percent of New York’s population, not a small number.) Maybe he’s calculating that discretion is the better part of valor in this case, that he’ll throw the left a bone before reasserting his centrism on other matters. It might be good for him locally. But it’s terrible for his party nationally.