NEW YORK, IF YOU HAVEN’T NOTICED, is a Blue (Democratic) state and that is not likely to change any time soon. That’s because New York City is unremittingly Blue. Even if “upstate” has its share of Republicans, it is unlikely that the political equation of the whole state will change. Of course, someone will surely remind me that the city has had Republican mayors and governors. That’s true and that almost always occurs when the Democrats put bums or semi- bums on their ticket and people shake their heads in dismay.
Today, the New York Democrats control just about every statewide position. We’re talking about the governor and both houses of the legislature, not to mention the comptroller and pretty much everything else. I live in the Democratic state of Massachusetts and, unlike in New York, even though the voter numbers are overwhelmingly Democratic we regularly elect Republican state-wide office holders. That really signals a major difference in the political culture of the two states.
To put it mildly, this is not a good situation. I am not suggesting for a moment that New York should be electing more Republicans, but I do believe that there is almost a religious conviction that New York is a Democratic state. I am reminded once again that so many years ago when I was in the sixth grade at PS 75 in New York, we had a class mock presidential election in which we were to vote for either Eisenhower or Stevenson. I came home and told my mom that I was going to vote for General Eisenhower and my mom quickly told me that I was making a mistake because “…we’re Democrats.” That’s when I found out that not only was I Jewish but a Democrat. That would be the moment when I understood the words “political socialization.” I will tell you that I am now a non-affiliated voter in Massachusetts and that I have voted for several Republicans, despite my long-passed mother’s instructions.
So what is the difference between Massachusetts and New York? Well, there are a number of differences. The history and culture of the politics of the two states are entirely different. I remember so many, many years ago when the back door bell rang in our apartment on 96th Street to be answered by my father. There stood a functionary of the Democratic Party who put his whole soul into convincing my father that he had to vote Democratic to advance the career of the supplicator. I never forgot how personal the politics in New York City could be. As I remember it, the functionary was close to tears, begging my father to turn out and cast his vote for the Democrats. Believe me, they took their politics dead seriously on the West Side and every once in a while, there could be a real blood-letting. I remember when the West Side went wildly liberal, electing people like the late William Fitts Ryan. It hasn’t changed.
I find the whole thing so interesting. Recently there was a crucial primary in the city between Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, both long-time Democratic members of Congress. Nadler won. I was disappointed that one of the most successful women in politics got beat, especially on the West Side of Manhattan which, as I have said, is an aggressively liberal stronghold. I truly believe that the ingrained sexism of the New York political system was at play. Liberals absolutely do have the capacity to speak out of both sides of their mouths.
There was a real sea change on the West Side of Manhattan, which has not been altered since I was a kid. I did notice that some of the newly elected Democrats had the capacity for playing really wicked and sometimes nasty politics. Just because you’re liberal doesn’t always mean that you’re nice. That’s for sure.