For Progressives, Michelle Wu Points to a Way Forward

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As a Boston mayoral candidate, she had plentifulness of accidental to pivot distant from her much wide ideas. She didn’t, and it paid off.

Mayor-elect Michelle Wu of Boston astatine  her predetermination  nighttime  enactment      connected  Tuesday.
Credit...M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times

Ellen Barry

Nov. 3, 2021, 6:47 p.m. ET

BOSTON — For progressives, Tuesday’s elections brought a litany of atrocious news and 1 conspicuous agleam spot: Michelle Wu, the recently elected politician of Boston, who took the signifier successful a scarlet dress, carrying her 4-year-old lad connected her hip.

Ms. Wu, 36, was successful aggravated run mode this summertime erstwhile Eric Adams won the Democratic superior successful New York, convincing galore pundits that the progressive question was sputtering astatine the ballot box, dampened by the applicable concerns of older, mean voters.

Ms. Wu had clip to pivot toward the center, but she did not: Right up until its past weeks, her run was built astir an docket that galvanized this city’s young left, similar fare-free nationalist transit, clime enactment and rent control.

And that did not look to wounded her, adjacent with centrist voters. In Tuesday’s election, Ms. Wu trounced a much mean opponent, City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, by a 28-point margin. Between the September preliminary election and Tuesday’s wide election, she expanded acold beyond the younger, much educated whites who are her base, winning by commanding margins among Black, Latino and Asian voters.

Still flushed from her victory, Ms. Wu affirmed her program to marque the metropolis into a laboratory for progressive policy, the benignant she studied nether her mentor Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“Boston has travel unneurotic to reshape what is possible,” she told supporters. “We are the metropolis of the archetypal nationalist schoolhouse successful the country, the archetypal nationalist park, the archetypal subway tunnel. We are the metropolis of revolution, civilian rights, matrimony equality. We person ever been that metropolis that punches supra our weight.”


Credit...Philip Keith for The New York Times

Ms. Wu’s run — and peculiarly her “years of infrastructure gathering and engagement” — should beryllium a exemplary for progressive candidates crossed the country, said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which endorsed her.

“She doesn’t conscionable correspond transformational ideas successful a vacuum; she was idiosyncratic who built credibility successful the section assemblage implicit the years,” helium said. “We’ve mislaid races erstwhile the candidates plaything retired of nowhere, and the archetypal clip radical are proceeding of them is erstwhile they tally for office.”

One mentation for her occurrence is Ms. Wu herself, who is hard to caricature arsenic a radical.

Over her 4 presumption arsenic a metropolis councilor, Bostonians person gotten to cognize Ms. Wu arsenic soft-spoken and thoughtful, intensely focused connected policy, meticulous astir showing up astatine meetings and returning telephone calls. That acquisition acted arsenic a “buffer,” if immoderate was needed, “for idiosyncratic this progressive to beryllium elected mayor,” said David Paleologos, manager of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

“That benignant of quiet, methodical benignant is simply a caller benignant for progressives,” helium said. “It’s a antithetic benignant of benignant that she has invented.”

Lydia Chim, 26, a fund expert who moved to Boston from California, said Ms. Wu struck her arsenic experienced and practical, qualities she does not ever find successful progressives.

“It’s a refreshing happening to spot a progressive campaigner who truly knows however to get things done,” she said.

Ms. Wu besides cultivated relationships with the city’s blimpish powerfulness centers, tapping into her Harvard pedigree and post-college acquisition arsenic a absorption advisor and small-business owner. She comes crossed arsenic “somebody who is precise intelligibly into managing systems,” which has helped her physique spot successful those parts of the city, said Jonathan Cohn, the seat of a section Democratic committee and a progressive activist.

“Her vocation is wherever it is due to the fact that she has done a bully occupation of catering to concern owners and progressives astatine the aforesaid time,” helium said.

Ms. Wu has besides benefited from immoderate conditions extracurricular her control.

The demographics of Boston are changing rapidly, with young professionals drawn to the metropolis for jobs successful technology, medicine and education. Boston has go “an intelligence elite city,” said Nan Whaley, the politician of Dayton, Ohio, and the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Its politics, she said, are changing accordingly.

“Boston mightiness beryllium a harbinger for the concern successful our large cities,” she said. “They are costly to unrecorded in. People are much educated. That mightiness beryllium a quality we volition see.”

It helped that the fashionable incumbent, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, was tapped arsenic the national labour caput successful January, leaving the Boston contention wide open. By then, Ms. Wu was 4 months into a run against Mr. Walsh, criticizing his medication for insufficient enactment to combat radical injustice and clime change.

In unfastened races, it is not antithetic for voters to opt for a campaigner who has characteristics the erstwhile politician did not, said David Axelrod, a Democratic governmental consultant.

Takeaways From the 2021 Elections

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“They take the remedy” to the erstwhile mayor, “someone who has what they lacked, alternatively than a replica of who they are,” helium said.

Another origin was thing successful afloat presumption astatine Ms. Wu’s triumph enactment connected Tuesday night: a young, enthusiastic, racially divers crushed operation.

Young radical successful Massachusetts person been drawn powerfully into organizing, cutting their teeth connected the statesmanlike campaigns of Ms. Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and emerging arsenic a formidable governmental unit successful the re-election of Senator Ed Markey.

Ms. Wu hosted events for younker organizers much than a twelvemonth ago, soon aft declaring her candidacy. Alejandra Tejeda, 24, of the Hyde Park neighborhood, attended one, and was truthful impressed that she departed arsenic a full-fledged rider connected “the Wu train,” arsenic it is known.

Her activism consisted chiefly of arguing Ms. Wu’s lawsuit with aged friends and classmates implicit Facebook, thing she likened to “virtual door-knocking.” But for galore others, “everything astir their beingness became Michelle Wu.”

Ms. Tejeda and her champion friend, Malaysia Fuller-Staten, exulted connected Tuesday. They attended Ms. Wu’s triumph enactment successful matching Wu T-shirts, danced a little, and headed location astatine 11:30, satisfied by what they had achieved. “Young radical successful Boston decidedly played a ample relation successful helping elite Michelle Wu,” she said.


Credit...M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times

And arsenic the glow of triumph recedes, Ms. Wu volition look unit from the aforesaid activists, who are anxious to spot enactment connected the proposals she ran on: cuts to the constabulary budget, the enlargement of fare-free transit, and advancement toward restoring rent control.

For Ms. Fuller-Staten, that started connected Wednesday greeting astatine 8, erstwhile she began publically prodding the mayor-elect to find lodging for several 100 radical who were precocious evicted from a sidewalk structure city.

“Alright,” she wrote connected Twitter, “the prima has risen connected a caller time and it’s clip to fig retired what Mayor-elect Michelle Wu is going to astir the lodging issues” successful that area.

And that should beryllium expected, Ms. Fuller-Staten said.

“It’s a caller crippled successful authorities these days, particularly successful a spot similar Massachusetts,” she said. “If we’re going to enactment immoderate of our clip down you, whether it’s crushed enactment oregon adjacent conscionable tweeting, we expect that you springiness america what we were looking for erstwhile we supported you.”

“It’s not similar we supported you and present it’s done,” she said.

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