The Cocktail Party Contrarian: It Can Always Get Worse, New York …
If there were a basement on things getting worse, we wouldn’t have gotten Mayor de Blasio in the first place.
“What do you think about Eric Adams?” asked a friend at a dinner party, referring to the new mayor of New York City. “I don’t know,” answered the woman to his right, raising her glass in a toast, “but it can’t get any worse than Bill de Blasio!” Everyone agreed. A whoop and a hurrah ensued.
Nice thought, and I hated to burst everyone’s optimistic bubble, but I had to interject. “Says who?” I wondered aloud. “Actually, it can get worse, and it often does.”
I know how to kill a moment, I guess, but was I wrong?
If there were a basement on things getting worse, we wouldn’t have gotten Mayor de Blasio in the first place. Surely more than a few people sat at dinner tables during the administration of Mayor Dinkins and thought, “It can only go up from here.”
For a while, that did happen, but then the city elected Mr. de Blasio, a semi-socialist incompetent with no charm and no talent. We thought it couldn’t get worse than that until he was re-elected and oversaw the worst decline in our city in decades.
The bipartisan wave of relief after Mayor Adams took office on January 1 was big, but not big enough to overcome the worrisome thought of a realist unwilling to meme her way through life: Maybe the new mayor will be slightly better — but maybe he won’t. Maybe he will do something spectacularly horrible we haven’t thought of yet. Maybe someone else in power will. With crime already on the rise in our city, we couldn’t imagine it getting any worse.
Then Alvin Bragg, our new Manhattan district attorney, laid out his views on criminal justice, and they were criminally insane. Consoled by the insistence that things can’t get any worse than that? Well, don’t be. They probably can. We just can’t imagine how yet, but we could easily find out. If anyone in San Francisco or Chicago is reading this, perhaps they can help us skip to the end of the story (not that they are necessarily there yet, either).
Everything can always get worse. Pretending otherwise leaves us open to things even worse than we imagined because while we were childishly refusing to imagine them, someone else was busy making them happen. While New Yorkers clinked glasses about electing a new mayor no one would have thought much of until Mr. de Blasio lowered our bar to staggering levels, people like George Soros and Cenk Uygur were out there conjuring up the likes of Alvin Bragg. And believe me, they are already funding the next one, and my guess is she is a doozy.
No law of nature suggests things will only get better compared with whatever low mark we have decided delineates the bottom. People who survive cancer get it again. Kids who somehow suffered their way through school closures last year and just got used to being back in school thought the worst was behind them. They are now feeling the pain of the teachers unions once more. Who knew?
Well, some of us did, or at least we imagined the possibility. It isn’t pessimism I am advocating for; it is pragmatism, and the kind of forethought and preparation that accompanies a cold, honest look at life. Knowing it can always get worse is empowerment. It keeps us working to make sure that sometimes it doesn’t.