After 12 years in City Hall, Michael Bloomberg is stepping down (or rather, being forced out by term limits) — and leaving behind a city that he has shaped in almost every imaginable way. This year's mayoral race has largely been shaped by candidates' reactions to the Bloomberg legacy, to the point where the current Democratic front-runner, Bill de Blasio, has surged in the polls largely because he's promised the most definitive break from the Bloomberg agenda and style.
Whether you love or hate Mayor Mike — or, more likely, no matter which parts of him you love and which parts you hate — there's no denying that on political terms, his mayoralty has been a massive success. Using his massive personal fortune, his close ties to media and Wall Street, and an autocratic, top-down style of government, Bloomberg has made himself into one of the city's most consequential mayors ever.
National voters know Bloomberg for his stances on hot-button social issues. He is pro-choice, pro-gay-rights, and pro-gun control, and between his stance on guns and his attempt to ban big sodas in NYC, conservatives have had a field day mocking him over the last few years. But the truth is that Bloomberg is sui generis in the way he's run the city. "Bloombergism," as a governing philosophy, could roughly be described as follows:
1. Socially liberal stances on issues like religious freedom, gay rights, and gun control. (These issues may be the most interesting for a national audience, but they are also the least relevant in terms of the day-to-day running of a city).
Essentially, almost everyone can find something to love about Bloomberg — and something to hate about him. But what's ended up happening is that across the country, his fiercest critics have become conservatives, while within the city, his fiercest critics have been liberals.
The last few weeks have seen a flurry of articles on Bloomberg's legacy. Here are a few of the most insightful.
-Begin by checking out New York Magazine's most recent issue, which has a treasure trove of material. Of particular note: Jonathan Chait's take on Bloomberg's unapologetic elitism and why he could never be elected president, and Chris Smith's interview with the mayor himself.
-Blake Zeff of Salon on why Bloomberg is so pissed that de Blasio looks poised to succeed him.
-The New York Times published an entire supplement on the Bloomberg years. Be sure to check out a stunning physical map of the city's building boom over the last 12 years. In addition, look at this deep dive into polling data to see just how New Yorkers view the outgoing mayor.
In closing, I leave you with this photo: