Much has been written about how the election of Bill de Blasio signals a re-awakening -- in New York City and nationally -- of a liberal left that has lain largely dormant for much of Barack Obama's presidency.
"The reemergence of a Democratic left will be one of the major stories of 2014," predicted columnist E.J. Dionne. Wrote Dan Balz of de Blasio's inauguration on Wednesday: "Issues such as the prospects of liberalism in an ideologically divided country, the future shape of the Democratic Party and the political ambitions of Hillary (and Bill) Clinton all played out in front of New York’s City Hall."
Given all of the emphasis on what de Blasio might mean for the Democratic party -- and, in particular, the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, it's worth looking through what he said in his inaugural address for hints of the rhetoric to come from Democrats. We did just that and plucked six lines that we bet you'll be hearing from Democrats -- on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail -- between now and the November midterms as well as into the 2016 campaign. (Here's de Blasio's full address as prepared.)
1. "Big dreams are not a luxury reserved for a privileged few, but the animating force behind every community, in every borough."
Take out the "in every borough" line and you have a ready-made piece of rhetoric for congressional Democrats making the case to raise the minimum wage or extend unemployment benefits heading into the 2014 election. It's also a perfect line for someone -- Elizabeth Warren, Howard Dean, Russ Feingold -- looking to challenge Hillary Clinton (assuming she runs) from the left in 2016.
2. "We are called to put an end to the economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love."
Substitute "country" for "city" and you have a line that could -- and probably will -- be uttered by President Obama this year as he tries to make good on his promises to close the economic inequality gap. For Democrats hoping to energize their base in 2014 or offer a big-picture governing vision for their party heading into 2016, this line could be the building block.
3. "A movement that sees the inequality crisis we face today, and resolves that it will not define our future."
Two key words here: "crisis" and "movement". More on "crisis" below but the choice of the word "movement" is not an accident by de Blasio. There is a sense within the liberal base of the Democratic party that the man they thought they were electing president has been co-opted by the so-called "establishment" over the last six years, and, therefore, has not brought about the sort of change many had hoped/expected. (Worth noting: The base of the party never thinks the president is moving quickly enough. Ever.) Casting the fight for liberal ideals as a movement falls directly in line with the rhetoric Dean used to captivate the Democratic base for much of 2003.
4. "We face a different crisis -- an inequality crisis. It's not often the stuff of banner headlines in our daily newspapers. It's a quiet crisis, but one no less pernicious than those that have come before."
Mayor de Blasio's framing of the inequality problem as on the same level as natural disasters and terrorist attacks (his words) will be met with mockery by conservatives. But, for Democratic candidates looking for ways to make the stakes of the 2014 (and 2016) elections real to the base of their party, de Blasio's "crisis" construct could be effective.
5. "A city that fights injustice and inequality -- not just because it honors our values but because it strengthens our people."
Connecting the battle to close the equality gap to the fabric of who America is as a people has the potential to be resonant with a broader electorate if framed properly. There is power -- as demonstrated by John McCain in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008 -- in a message centered on the "we are all in this together/we are stronger together than we are apart" idea.
6. "We do not ask more of the wealthy to punish success. We do it to create more success stories."
As the fight over debt and spending continues -- on and on without end -- Democrats seem likely to focus on the need to again raise taxes on the wealthiest among us. To do so, they need to win the message war over why, how and how much. It can't be about punishing success or creating some sort of plan for equal success for everyone. It must be about what raising these taxes will do on the positive side and why that is ultimately a good thing for society. It's a very tough sell under any circumstances, but without the "why we are doing this" piece of the argument, it's a total non-starter.