The Next Rudy Giuliani Isn't Coming
On Al Sharpton's disingenuous defense of Eric Adams
A year and a half ago, when Eric Adams was still a mayoral candidate, it became apparent to me that he would pose a few different problems for progressives if he ever managed to win. He had successfully welded together a coalition of wealthy white business interests and the outer borough working-class, Black and Latino voters especially. He was an ex-cop running on a popular platform of cracking down on crime. And he was, as the most prominent Black Democrat in the primary, unafraid to use his identity as a weapon, defusing whatever criticism came his way. Adams was smart enough to understand that the rhetorical tricks favored in educated liberal spaces could be wielded against these very same people when the moment was right. A wealthy landlord of great privilege, Adams could morph into the aggrieved underdog at a moment’s notice.
His first year in office almost complete, Adams has largely followed this playbook. Now he has Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the most influential Black leaders in America, in his corner, at the ready to combat critics, particularly those mulling how to stage a successful primary challenge in 2025. Speaking at his National Action Network headquarters last week, Sharpton said he was “real mad” at progressive Democrats who’ve accused Adams of helping Republicans at the polls by talking openly and incessantly about rising crime rates. “I saw the same distortion made on David Dinkins when he was the mayor of New York, the [city’s] first Black [mayor],” Sharpton said.
“And I’m seeing the same trend in the media and among some who call themselves progressives that attacked Dinkins with misinformation—that are attacking this mayor,” he continued. “Some of us in the Black community, we went for it—saying that David Dinkins played tennis too much, like there’s something wrong with staying in shape; that he shouldn’t have had on a tuxedo, like he was supposed to go to a formal affair in blue jeans.”
“And we inadvertently in our passion beat him down to where the result was that we got Rudy Giuliani.”
Here it was, spoken plainly: to oppose Adams was to open the door to a reactionary Republican. Adams must be spared, Sharpton said, because this threat is real, because it will always be 1993. The argument is compelling, given Lee Zeldin’s recent success in the governor’s race. It’s also entirely wrong.