There’s a pretty straightforward rule surrounding politicians and food: While it’s considered a plus to be seen feigning humanity in an area diner,
it’s best to avoid photographs with the stuff in or around their mouth.
Perhaps the greatest sign that Bill de Blasio no longer cares about his perception in the final months of his mayoralty is that he’s been flaunting this advice. There he was last week on West 23rd Street unhinging for a torta. And on Monday, the New York City mayor even dared to mic himself up while eating french fries before noon, in an attempt to entice New Yorkers to get vaccinated in exchange for some free Shake Shack sides at participating locations. “If this is appealing to you just think of this when you think of vaccination,” he said, perhaps unaware that the idea of him chewing and talking may not be the perfect image to correlate with the most important public-health effort of our lifetime.
While many outlets have pointed to de Blasio’s bout of senioritis, the mayor has, in fact, not wanted to be the mayor anymore for some time now. Two years ago, almost to the day, he threw his hat in the ring for the presidential primary — only for Democratic voters to rip on him viscerally when he dropped out in September 2019, having failed to break the one percent mark in certified polls. But over the past few weeks, he appears to be having more fun with his remaining time in office, or at least allowing New Yorkers to have fun at his expense, as his outfit at Monday’s daily briefing showed:
There appear to be a few reasons for de Blasio’s tonal shift over the past few weeks. First off, his archnemesis Governor Andrew Cuomo has spent the year staving off calls for his resignation by passing progressive legislation and denying allegations of sexual misconduct and alleged abuses of his office. With coronavirus restrictions easing in the state, their stupid and damaging war over who had pandemic authority in the city is now ending, and the mayor has emerged as the less-disgraced combatant.
Now that de Blasio can offer good reopening news and free stuff at his daily pressers, it appears a burden has been lifted — even if it has not in his city, where vaccine inequality remains endemic and overall vaccination rates in several boroughs are still pretty bad. Just 38 percent of Bronx residents, 42 percent of Brooklyn residents, and 44 percent of Staten Island residents have received at least one dose. If those boroughs were states, they’d rank 44th, 36th, and 29th, respectively, in the national vaccination effort. (Though his recent TV stints are tangentially related to the vaccine drive, it’s not hard to imagine a more effective outreach tool than a mayor with a 38 percent approval rating offering potatoes and a lottery for playoff tickets for the city’s less popular basketball team.) And with five weeks remaining until his lame-duck period officially begins after the Democratic primary, de Blasio has also kicked the can on public safety and police brutality to the candidates vying for his job.
So the mayor is having fun, riding the rides at Coney Island and enjoying free treats for the vaccinated, a sinecure that his press secretary is calling the “Spring of Bill.” And while it may be a benefit to his work-life balance to drop the dour attitude he’s held in public for the past two years, perhaps there’s a better compromise between being a mascot for New York’s economic recovery and making a clown of himself on TV.