The Jews of New York like Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As Josh Nathan-Kazis notes in the Forward, 64% of New York City Jewish voters think that the outgoing Bloomberg is doing an “excellent” or “good” job, compared with just 45% of registered voters overall.
But their enthusiasm for the mayor did not carry over to votes for Christine Quinn, the candidate in the Democratic primary (held last week) seen as closest to the mayor and his policies. Quinn received 19% of the Jewish vote, as compared to the 38% received by Bill de Blasio, the most liberal of the Democratic candidates and Bloomberg’s fiercest critic.
Why is it that a mayor who is so wildly popular among Jews could not generate support for Quinn, thought to have Bloomberg’s blessing if not his formal support? As Nathan-Kazis points out, some say it has to do with the shortcomings of Christine Quinn. But then, there are those who say it has to do with the shortcomings of Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is a Jew who has been a solid, centrist mayor—all factors that work in his favor among New York’s mostly middle-class Jewish voters. The crime rate has dropped dramatically during his tenure. He has pushed hard for gun control, a cause dear to Jewish hearts. His record in education is mixed, but bike paths and the smoking ban have made the city a more livable place. New York Jews like stability and calm, and Bloomberg has provided both.
But the bloom is off the Bloomberg rose for two reasons. The first is Bloomberg fatigue. After twelve years, New Yorkers are ready for a fresh face. The second is that the stagnation and gaping inequalities of the post-crash economy have left New Yorkers restless and frustrated, and they are looking for a mayor who shows some real concern for their struggles. The Jewish rank-and-file is not poor but is not rich either, and they care about economic issues every bit as much as other New Yorkers.
Middle class pain is not only a New York story, of course. It is an American story. The middle class has been losing ground everywhere for decades; the wages of male workers are lower now than they were in 1980, adjusted for inflation. Income and wealth are more concentrated at the top than they have been in a century. And in the last four years, incomes have skyrocketed for those at the very top of the pyramid while standing still or falling for everyone else.
And things are worse in New York than they are elsewhere. New York’s unemployment rate has gone down a little bit in recent months, but it remains well above the national rate; this has left an awful lot of New Yorkers disappointed with their lives, convinced that they are moving down the economic scale.