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Tom Hayden on Bill de Blasio's Win: A Harbinger of a New Populist Left in America?

Bold stances on inequality and overzealous policing propelled a progressive victory. If he holds true, can De Blasio shift the national debate?

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De Blasio also can tackle income inequality by signing the living wage ordinance on city contracts, or by preventing Wall Street developers getting special city abatements – measures that Bloomberg vetoed. De Blasio didn't flinch on the issue when confronted in closed meetings with developers during the campaign.

When De Blasio first  raised his opposition to the police stop-and-frisk policies, according to  Vincent Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the candidate began rising in the polls against other contenders in the Democratic primary. The stop-and-frisk policy, a variation of racial profiling against black and brown young people, is generally supported by white and worried New Yorkers and overwhelmingly opposed by communities of color.

De Blasio and his African-American wife have a teenager, named Dante, whose  Afro style even caught the attention of President Obama. As Dante leafleted with his father at subway turnstiles, emotional memories of the murdered Florida teenager Trayvon Martin were palpable, if rarely mentioned.

New York under Mayor Giuliani fanned then popular American policies of mass incarceration towards youngsters who resembled Dante de Blasio. From 2008 to 2012, the  NYPD stopped nearly 2.9 million New Yorkers, a majority of them young, about 85% black or brown. On average, 88% of those stopped were  completely innocent of any crime or misdemeanor.

When a federal appeals court  halted a judicial order ordering detailed changes in the NYPD last week, De Blasio expressed "extreme disappointment" and pledged to move forward on police reform from day one. How he will do so is procedurally muddled for the moment, but there is little doubt that another staple of the Bloomberg era is ready for the dustbin.

Will De Blasio adhere to his promises? He is, after all, a mainstream Democratic party operative and policy wonk who once managed Hillary Clinton's centrist campaign for the US Senate. Decades ago, he was deeply involved in the Nicaragua Solidarity Movement against Ronald Reagan's illegal contra war. De Blasio seemed nervous when this past association surfaced earlier in the campaign. But the Republicans could gain no traction on the issue.

It is reassuring that De Blasio has roots in past social movements instead of the usual pedigrees for a political career. If he has veered back to his lefty roots, it is enabled by a popular anger among voters. This anger was fanned by the growing gap between the haves and have-nots, reinforced by heavy-handed policing, in a city whose power brokers are addicted to opulence.

The media widely acknowledges that Occupy Wall Street " changed the conversation" in America. De Blasio won't represent the 99%, but a healthy majority will do. From Wednesday, Bill de Blasio will have the largest megaphone of any conversation-changer on the national scene.

Tom Hayden was a leader of the student, civil rights, peace and environmental movements of the 1960s. He served 18 years in the California legislature, where he chaired labor, higher education and natural resources committees. He is the author of ten books, including "Street Wars" (New Press, 2004). He is a professor at Occidental College, Los Angeles, and was a visiting fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics last fall.