Curtis Sliwa is clearly not your typical Republican.
He hates Trump, supports ranked choice voting (and the democratic process more generally), and calls for the removal of certain tax breaks that benefit the rich (he credits former Democratic candidate Andrew Yang with the idea of ending Madison Square Garden’s tax exemption).
Sliwa makes it known that he is dissatisfied with the machinery of both major political parties. However, that does not make him unique in New York politics.
Over the past decade, progressive Democrats have continually challenged the status quo of their party. Although just about every Democrat in the City started labeling themselves as progressive after AOC’s surprise election (looking at you Jimmy Van Bramer), there are still many within the party that are generally working to break the machinery.
During this past primary season, a number of progressive Democrats in the outer boroughs challenged machine candidates and won by large margins. These include (but are not limited to) Tiffany Cabán in Astoria, Lincoln Restler in Greenpoint, Shahana Hanif in Park Slope, and even Felicia Singh out in the Rockaways.
Party lines are hard to bridge these days, but Sliwa was uniquely positioned to find common ground with progressive Democrats on issues such as tax reform, economic recovery, and animals’ rights. It would have been very impressive to see Sliwa seek out these candidates — fellow political outsiders — and host press conferences with them about various topics.
Sadly, this was not the case. Rather than taking advantage of exciting potential alliances, Sliwa leaned into all the typical right-wing, Fox News talking points (millennials are crybabies, refund the police, etc.).
Sliwa’s debate performance was similarly disappointing in this regard. Instead of challenging Adams with his own thoughts on small business loans, direct cash relief to families, or other progressive ideas, Sliwa slouched into a lazy performance of your average dollar-store Republican. If it weren’t for the red beret, it would have been hard to tell it was actually him up on that stage.
After all these missed opportunities, you get the sense that if Sliwa wins the election (which he likely won’t), it wouldn’t be him calling the shots. Rather, he would be subject to the whims of a needlessly contrarian, self-obsessed, and dangerous right-wing echo chamber that wrecked house on the federal level for four years.
Sliwa could have avoided these presumptions, but unfortunately he didn’t do enough to separate himself from the party line he is running on. In conversation, Sliwa is not your typical MAGA-hat wearing Republican, but when he gets in front of the cameras, it sure seems like he is.