What de Blasio and Uruguay’s José Mujica Have In Common

I showed the group a Guardian article calling [Uruguay’s President] Mujica “the world’s most radical president.” They burst into contemptuous groans.

Last January, Bill de Blasio took over as mayor of New York City. The election was a landslide; the hopes invested in him near messianic. “When New York City Democrats head to the polls … they will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rewrite the narrative of their city … Mayor de Blasio might have a real chance to begin stitching the city’s tattered social contract back together,” the Nation effused in its August 2013 endorsement. It didn’t take long for the backlash to start: protests in the streets over Eric Garner, the police union snubbing and work slowdown. Around de Blasio, The New York Times concluded last month, hangs an “atmosphere of sullen insubordination.”

It’s a pattern: We keep creating saviors whom we expect to single- handedly restore lost values. Then we lash out at them when they inevitably fall short.

“I want a hero,” Lord Byron begins “Don Juan,” written in 1819. “An uncommon want / When every year and month sends forth a new one, / Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant, / The age discovers he is not the true one …” So the cycle by which we erect and dismantle saviors isn’t new. But it has been amplified, partly as a result of the increasingly complex nature of global society and power itself.

Eve Fairbanks writing in the New Republic about Uruguay’s José Mujica. Mujica’s straightforward and humble “truth to power” approach has brought him worldwide acclaim, but many Uruguayan progressives are disappointed by what he has actually accomplished.

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