Last month in an extremely well-publicized mayoral town hall in New York City, Mayor Eric Adams grabbed headlines after a particularly vocal and passionate citizen, an elderly woman, called him out for doing nothing to stop New York City’s untenable rent increases.
Adams’ response – to completely ignore the substance of what the woman was asking and instead demeaning her for being “disrespectful” and comparing her to a slave owner – made headlines around the nation.
The full video of the event is an enlightening look into the mind of the modern politician. Setting aside the upset voter that Mayor Adams compared to a slave owner was in fact a Holocaust survivor, the incident was a particularly acute glimpse at the pathology of our partisan office holders. For politicians like Eric Adams, you’re not allowed to feel upset that your rent has illegally increased over the past two years. You’re not allowed to express anger whatsoever, because that might make him feel personally uncomfortable.
In a radio interview days after the incident, Adams doubled down on comparing the 84 year old Holocaust survivor to a plantation owner and reiterated, once again, that she was being “disrespectful” by not adhering to the sort of polite deference that he assumes he’s entitled to.
This is how kings and feudal lords acted towards their serfs back in 1400s Europe. This should not be how the modern American politician treats their constituents. After all, aren’t public office holders supposed to be working for the voters, and not the other way around?
Adams’ recent outburst is but one example of modern politicians hiding behind “civility” and “decorum” excuses to brush away the actual substantive concerns of their voters. It’s a way for them to completely avoid having to deal with the problems their policies are either creating or ignoring – essentially, it’s a way for them to completely avoid doing the job of representing and answering to their constituents.
Ultimately, when you expect to win re-election, the concerns of the individual voter don’t mean anything to you, because your career’s future isn’t dependent on actually taking them seriously.
We saw it last campaign cycle when then-candidate Joe Biden dismissed a potential voter as “fat” and “stupid” for challenging him. We saw it with Gavin Newsom attending a maskless dinner in California at the height of pre-vaccine Covid lockdowns.
Famously, when a reporter asked then-Mayor of Chicago Richard Daley about the effectiveness of his gun policies, he pointed to a nearby rifle and shouted “If I shove this up your butt, you’ll find out how effective it is.”
Like then-candidate Trump was caught on a hot mic bragging, “When you’re a star, they let you do it.”
Democrats do it. Republicans do it.
The disdain and the entitlement these politicians feel safe enough espousing is because they know they’re protected by the two party system that keeps them in power. It’s on us to start breaking that power structure to make sure politicians actually start respecting the voters who elected them into office to begin with.