An inaugural address is a big thing. It declares an agenda but also sets a tone. An attitude. The tone Mr. de Blasio set was that of a divider.
A uniter’s approach would have been one that was both more morally generous and more honest. It wouldn’t set one group against the other, it would have asserted that all New Yorkers are in this together. Something along this approach: “To those who earn half a million dollars or more a year, we know and understand that your weekly paycheck is already subject to federal, state and city taxes. Which means we know you already contribute a great deal, and not only through taxes. So many of our citizens are deeply civic-minded. They give their time and effort to helping their local churches and synagogues; to building civic organizations; to raising funds for the poor and the hungry; to volunteering for literacy programs; and donating their wealth to keep the arts and the museums going. In our town, much has always been asked of those to whom much has been given—and they have come through. They have helped build a ladder. And now we are going to make that ladder sturdier, stronger, higher and wider so more of our young can use it.”
What was absent in Mr. de Blasio’s remarks was a kind of civic courtesy, or grace. The kind that seeks to unite and build from shared strength, the kind that doesn’t demonize. Instead, from our new mayor we got the snotty sound of us vs. them, of zero-sum politics.