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FILE — Boston mayoral candidate Michelle Wu campaigns in this Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 file photo, in Boston. Boston mayoral hopefuls Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George to meet in their final debate Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, before next week’s historic election in a city that’s only elected white men as mayor. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

Since it is Boston Mayor Day here at LGM, we should also focus on the great win of Michelle Wu.

The progressive wing of the Democratic Party wasn’t able to win the presidency. Or the Virginia governorship. Or even the New York mayor’s office. But the wonky, very progressive Michelle Wuwon the mayoral election in Boston on Tuesday, both illustrating that left-wing ideas can appeal to a broad swath of Democratic voters and setting up a major test of whether these ideas can work in practice.

The election of Wu, currently a member of Boston’s city council, is a milestone for reasons that have nothing to do with ideology. She is the first person of color and first woman to be elected mayor of Boston, one of the United States’ oldest cities. That’s symbolic of a changing Boston and a changing Democratic Party, where an increasingly diverse electorate is choosing more candidates who aren’t White males.

But Democrats in Boston, like those across the country, are divided on policy even as they are largely unified in support of greater diversity. The 36-year-old Wu, a one-time staffer for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), ran essentially an urban version of Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign, with lots of big progressive ideas: rent control, free transit, a Boston Green New Deal, shifting responsibility for nonviolent 911 calls and traffic stops away from police to other workers. Wu’s opponent Annissa Essaibi George — a fellow Democrat, city council member and child-of-immigrants — cast Wu’s agenda as unrealistic and unaffordable. In a debate between the two, Wu said, “I’m not running for mayor to say what we can’t do,” echoing a retort Warren gave two years earlier when criticized by one of her more centrist rivals.

For Wu, now comes perhaps the harder part. The resurgent progressive movement hasn’t won a lot of executive roles across the country, so it’s usually in the position of just talking about its big ideas. Now Wu must run a city of nearly 693,000. And while Boston hasn’t had the recent crime surge that other big cities have, it has other problems of urban America, such as a lack of affordable housing and a huge racial wealth gap. The city council, Boston’s business community and the Massachusetts state government may balk at some of her ideas.

But I’m optimistic that Wu will succeed. Boston is an ideal place to advance a progressive agenda. The residents are well educated and aware of problems like the racial wealth gap. They are very liberal and eager to solve those problems. Many of them are doing well financially, so they might be more open to solutions that involve redistributing power and money away from richer people. And the city’s political establishment includes figures such as Pressley, who will help boost Wu’s policies.

Things are pretty grim in American politics these days. So we should celebrate the wins that we have.

I will also point out that for all the reporting on this that Wu is the first non-white male to be mayor of Boston, it’s far, far more important that she is likely to be pretty awesome. I mean, Condi was the first Black woman to be Secretary of State. It’s time we move beyond relatively cheap “firsts” in our political reporting and focus on what matters–that Michelle Wu was by far the best possible candidate to be mayor of Boston and now she is mayor of Boston. That she is not a white dude is great–and most likely since white guys are the least likely demographic to have good politics–but it’s not the most important thing here.

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