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1/23: This Wasn't What We Had In Mind...
Oh, the irony! After vigorously opposing Caroline Kennedy's Senate bid and cheering her ultimate decision to bow out, the netroots are now voicing concerns about Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, whom NY Gov. David Paterson just appointed to NY's vacant Senate seat. Many liberal bloggers are unhappy that NY's new Senator has such a centrist voting record -- particularly on social issues such as gay rights and gun control. They're also complaining that Dems "just lost an excellent chance to expand the progressive caucus in the Senate," since Paterson (in their view) could have easily appointed someone more liberal to represent the solidly blue state of NY. Several lefty bloggers are criticizing their colleagues who attacked Kennedy, since they believe that Kennedy would have been a far more reliable vote for liberals than Gillibrand will be. Al Giordano is particularly disgusted: "Each and every 'Netroots progressive' that railed against a possible Kennedy pick owns this one."
See, that there is so delightfully full of a dazzling array of fervent and authoritative totally fucking wrong that it's hard to know where to begin, but I think I'll go with how someone at the National Journal's Hotline thinks New York is a "solidly blue state" (although it's possible that opinion is being attributed to "many liberal bloggers," in which case someone at the National Journal's Hotline really should straighten out that sentence some)
That there on the left? That's New York State. The little red shapes? Those are counties in New York State which voted for John McCain in our recent national presidential election
, which you may recall. The little blue shapes are the counties which voted for Barack Obama in that race, although in a lot of the little blue shapes on the top and on the left (and the one which contains the Hamptons) they only did it by slightly more than 50%. In two cases, they did it by less.
To put it another way, in a year when Barack Obama won 95 more electoral votes than he needed to be president, his margin of victory was higher in Nevada than it was in almost all of the roughly half the counties in NYS he carried. He still got 63% of the vote, but that's pretty much because the people who flooded the polls in the city and the bedroom suburbs had his back (you're welcome), except of course for Staten Island and aside for the bit where we supply them with water they're more or less Jersey anyway.
Now I'd like you to look at another map.
That state over there on the right is also New York, but the counties are colored differently. Here, the blue counties are counties that shifted from their usual voting pattern towards the Democrats, while the red counties shifted towards the Republicans.
If you compare the two maps, you may notice something interesting: some of the deepest shifts towards the Democrats occurred in counties that _still voted for McCain_
See, the reason New York was able to gift America with Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, Al D'Amato, Vito Fossella, Mike Bloomberg, the Rockefeller drug laws, a State Senate that sat in the palm of the Republicans for 69 fucking years before we got it back, um, last month (hey, d'ja hear they indicted Joe Bruno?), that nice Mr. Sweeney who led the Brooks Brothers Riot (until Gillibrand took him out), the '04 Republican National Convention, and Ms. Kennedy's little friend Mr. Sheekey who ran the Republican National Convention, is that New York is not, by any stretch of the imagination, even vaguely a "solidly blue state."
The differences between what we here call "upstate" and those of us hanging off the bottom are pretty stark. Large swaths of northern and western NYS are severely depressed financially, and have been for decades. The people who live there are pretty pissed off about that, and lots of them feel as if the state could have done much more for them if the richer, largely Democratic, areas of the state weren't sucking up all the money and the attention (we see it somewhat differently, but that's neither here nor there). That's how our Senate, which is, like the big Senate, not a representative body, stayed in Republican hands for longer than most people here have been alive.
Ever think to wonder how legendarily "solid blue" New York got centrist icons Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton as our Senators? Yeah, that would be it.
In '10? Our Democratic Governor, who you may remember became our Governor when the guy we elected to the job had a bimbo incident, is going to try to keep his job. Our Governor comes from Manhattan. Mr. Cuomo, our Democratic Attorney General, whose '06 opponent distinguished herself by capping off a spectacularly inept race with an FBI-recorded attempt to solicit a felony from Bernie Kerik, is going to try to keep his job. Mr. Cuomo is from Queens. Our Democratic Comptroller, Mr. DiNapoli, will be trying to keep his job. Mr. DiNapoli is from Long Island. What's at stake is not just control of one of the largest budgets in the country. It's control of one of the largest budgets in the world.
With that in mind, let's look at who the frontrunners to be appointed to the Senate were:
Caroline Kennedy (upper east side, Manhattan)
Andrew Cuomo (Queens)
Thomas Suozzi (Long Island)
Kirsten Gillibrand (recently won re-election to a traditionally red district upstate by over 60% against a self-funding millionaire former state GOP chair)
Carolyn Maloney (upper east side, Manhattan)
Brian Higgins (Buffalo, one of the few blue redoubts upstate)
Steve Israel (Long Island)
Byron Brown (also Buffalo)
Looking at it from Albany, that matters.
Now, none of this means that I'm enthusiastic about having a Senator to the right of the one I currently have, or that I think the state which supports Virginia's gunrunning should have a Senator with a 100% NRA voting record, or that I like the position she took on gay rights (although she's already said that's going to change now that she doesn't have to vote her district), or that I'm happy about her family ties to Joe Bruno, George Pataki and Al D'Amato, or that I think that people to the left of her shouldn't primary (as Carolyn McCarthy of Long Island is already planning to do) or that I don't think that progressives should donate to those primary candidates if they're so moved.
I do think that mounting effective opposition requires an understanding of the situation.
DFHs don't own this decision. Polls here were showing for weeks that statewide, New Yorkers were not interested in having Ms. Kennedy as our Senator, for a number of reasons, not least of which was the bizarre coalition of New York City's Republican-when-it's-convenient mayor (who needs a little popularity bump now that he's bought a shot at a third term New Yorkers have voted twice to keep the mayor from having), a national press corps faced with a disciplined non-leaking transition team and hurting for stuff to write about, and liberals from other states who thought it would make a nice thank you gift for her influential support of the Obama campaign (although contrary to what some folks appear to believe, the man himself never said he thought she should get the job).
Well, as noted, we voted for Obama a really lot here in New York. Had unusually high Democratic turnout. Very popular choice.
Barack Obama is not running for office in '10. A statewide team from downstate who are going to have to be the face of very painful cutbacks in a nasty recession are.
In the face of all that, the idea that people with blogs who didn't think a Kennedy appointment was a good idea - or, for that matter, people who don't vote in New York elections who thought it was - had any significant impact on Governor Paterson's decision requires a degree of blog triumphalism which I have to think would leave most of us at the very least nearsighted and with fuzz on our palms.
Please. Do the reading, K? txbai.