The Politics of Chiara de Blasio’s Revelations

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Elsewhere on nymag.com, my colleague Kat Stoeffel nails the most important points about Chiara de Blasio’s revelations of depression and substance abuse: The 19-year-old deserves sympathy for her troubles and praise for her candor, and anyone else suffering similar afflictions shouldn’t be ashamed to get help. But because Chiara is the daughter of the mayor-elect, this is also, inescapably, a political story, and in some ways it’s emblematic of the new First Family’s style: at once open-hearted and highly calculated.

During the mayoral campaign, reporters had asked about rumors of Chiara’s problems, and the De Blasio campaign wouldn’t comment. In October, De Blasio’s campaign manager ripped a Times reporter for identifying Chiara’s college — information that had been tweeted by De Blasio himself a year earlier. The e-mail accompanying today’s video says the timing is intended to help others for whom the holiday season is an emotional struggle, and there's no doubt that’s true; if the fragility of Chiara’s recovery was also a factor in containing the details for months, that has to be respected (as does the discretion exercised by reporters who didn’t run with the story). And Chiara’s alcohol and marijuana abuse must be especially painful and complicated for De Blasio, whose father was an alcoholic and a suicide.

Yet packaging and releasing the news after De Blasio has been safely elected, on Christmas Eve, when many civilians and much of the media is otherwise occupied, muffles the immediate headlines — though it will stoke questions about how De Blasio can make his family such a prominent part of his political life and demand privacy at the same time. (A digression: It’s pretty amazing, and salutary, that none of Chiara’s high school or college classmates seems to have exposed her issues through social media.) When I asked De Blasio, not along ago, about whether it was dangerous to turn his wife and kids into media figures, he answered serenely but emphatically. “You have to understand, our family is different in the way we think about things,” he said, describing how his politics and his family were so intertwined as to be inseparable. “This is who we are, this is how we live, this is how we’ll always live.” For twelve years in City Hall, the impersonal was political. Now, even after Chirlane’s lesbian past, Dante’s ’fro, and Chiara’s rehab, it feels like we’re in for a dramatic next four years.