Bill de Blasio and the Politics of iPhone City

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a day after the Democratic mayoral primary, in which he received 74 percent of the vote.

It seemed perhaps all too appropriate that on the day after Bill de Blasio, master of somnolent arrogance, effectively won a second term as the mayor of New York City, came a report that a former product manager at Google and his partner had started a company called Bodega, meant to rid cities of actual bodegas.

The idea, which manages at once to be bloodless and blood-boiling, is to fill apartment buildings, gyms, dormitories and so on with app-accessed “pantries,’’ known to previous generations as “vending machines,” and pack them with the sort of things typically found in corner stores but catered to the micro-demographics of particular environments — paper towels, seltzer, Pirate’s Booty, condoms, cans of chick peas. The human element is conveniently expunged.

It is easy to imagine what other politicians past and present would consider doing to two guys who believed that what New York or any city needed was the automation of a serendipitous neighborhood shopping experience — wrap them in drop cloth and duct tape and send them somewhere toward the Panama Canal. It is hard to think of Mr. de Blasio, who addresses New Yorkers as “brothers and sisters,” a humorously distancing trope he deploys in his campaign emails as if he were unionizing graduate students at Cornell, getting similarly impassioned.

For a long while now the commentariat has wondered how it is that four more years of Mr. de Blasio, who, despite clear successes, still grates on so many of his constituents, could be considered an inevitability. Part of the answer is certainly rooted in the mechanics of the system — term limits keep potentially serious challengers in the jobs they have until they no longer have them and can mount campaigns more easily. But at a deeper level of the city’s neurology, Mr. de Blasio’s supreme belief in his own way of doing things, his taste for patronizing lecture, his tendency to justify an absence of…


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