New York City airwaves are flooded with campaign ads for the democratic race for mayor. Christine Quinn, Bill Thompson, John Liu, Bill de Blasio and Mr. Weiner are aggressively attempting to convince voters they are for the people. You can get a little chuckle from the tokens of diversities in campaign ads: the random disabled person, an elder slowly walking on a downtrodden street and the urban youth who beam from ear-to-ear when they see their favorite candidate. The future mayor of New York City can serve them all ... yeah, right.
Last week, a new ad popped up featuring a 15-year-old named Dante endorsing public advocate Bill de Blasio. I instantly thought, "Did de Blasio pull a kid off the street to prove his diversity to voters?" But as the ad continued, Dante -- who was rocking the best afro ever -- talked in a familiar tone about New York's public advocate. With soft piano chords playing in the background, Dante closed with, "Bill de Blasio will be a mayor for every New Yorker, no matter where they live or what they look like ... and I'd say that even if he weren't my dad." Cut to an image of father and son strolling down a Brooklyn street. The ad said more about de Blasio's policies than any of his speeches. According to the latest polls, Bill de Blasio is now leading, knocking Christine Quinn off her once unshakable top spot.
Bill de Blasio with his son is one of the most impactful political ads in recent years. In an era of hyper multiculturalism meets the no-no word of racism, even in the criminalization of a killed, unarmed 17-year-old, de Blasio injected race in an accessible and, most importantly, non-threatening demeanor. For liberal whites who are exhausted by the race conversation, especially in terms of New York's stop-and-frisk policy, the ad delicately says: "See, black and white together -- we are post racial." For black and brown voters who know post-racial is a lie, despite our black president and a Cheerios commercial, Dante's daddy communicates: "My son could be stopped and frisked like you -- I will fight for you!" For the moderates in between, de Blasio is living proof of progressiveness.
Some might believe the Big Apple is soaked in multiculturalism. Lifetime New Yorker, Whoopi Goldberg, once said, "Who is gonna call you a n***** in New York?" An odd question: New York City malfunctions behind a veil of "too diverse to be racist," but suffers many of the color and class ills as the Deep South. Therefore, de Blasio's interracial family softens the sickness of racism in the minds of many New Yorkers -- without outwardly mentioning race. On the other hand, if de Blasio were a black man with a white wife, his loving family would suddenly become scary and he would struggle with African-American voters. A white man married to a black woman and he is progressive, a black man married to a white woman and he is labeled a "sell-out." For these reasons, Blasio is the pitch-perfect presentation of an interracial family in New York politics.
Arguably, the average New Yorker didn't know de Blasio is a father to a black son. It was well known his wife, Chirlane McCray, is African-American but we hadn't seen his family in the forefront like most political campaigns. Why are we seeing Dante de Blasio now? A fair question: Is de Blasio "exploiting" his son for votes? Exploitation might be the wrong word, but every political ad is intensely calculated -- this is politics. But is being a father to a black son enough to make black and brown voters believe the Brooklyn native understands their struggles? Maybe. The promotion of de Blasio's family gives the public advocate the "Clinton effect." And there is nothing liberals love more than someone who is not of a particular group lobbying for a disenfranchised group. The only other mayoral candidate who is African-American is Bill Thompson and he struggles with the black and Latino voting bloc.
De Blasio is against stop-and-frisk. However, he doesn't want to end the discriminatory policy, only "fix it." Comptroller John Liu is the only candidate who said stop-and-frisk should be abolished. Nonetheless, de Blasio is extremely vocal about racial profiling, affordable housing and raising taxes on New York's rich (a pipe dream every mayoral candidate sells to New Yorkers). But the issues aren't what matters in political campaigns. We vote on the image, the polish and the glow of our candidate. In our post-Trayvon Martin America, a black teenager talking about stop-and-frisk is a brilliant tactic to sway minority and progressive voters. With his interracial family and son prominently displayed, Bill de Blasio just hit the political jackpot.