More on ‘What’s Up with New York’, Pt.1

Over the weekend I posted about what to me at least was a surprising fact: New York isn’t now just a consistently Democratic state. At the national level it’s close to the most overwhelmingly Democratic state in the country. More than California and Massachusetts. And Obama currently has his biggest margin there than any state beside Vermont.

A number of TPM Readers chimed in with more details.

TPM Reader JM rightly notes that New York Republicans were always considerably more progressive than their national brethren, even before the Reagan Revolution …

I don’t write much anymore (new job, twins will do that to you) but as a native NYer and former Dem Party official who has lived upstate and downstate I wanted to weigh in why Obama is doing so well in NY. I have seen firsthand how the National Republican Party has destroyed what was left of the NY Republican Party in Manhattan (not that I objected) in the early 2000s. The election of my friend Jonathan Bing to the Assembly in 2002 eliminated the last Republican elected official in Manhattan which was unprecedented. They have not won an office since in part b/c of albatross of the National Republican Party.

Part of the issues Republicans have in NY today are historic and part of them are where we are today both as a country and the state of the National Republican Party. It is important to remember that the Republican Party both upstate and downstate was always pretty progressive, especially after WW II. Gov Nelson Rockefeller and Sen Jacob Javits were both downstaters but other Rs including Sens. Charles Goodell and Ken Keating were upstaters. All were quite liberal. Frankly, there was not a huge amount of policy/issue difference between these statewide elected officials and the Dems they ran against. If you look at the record, Nelson Rockefeller was more liberal than the Dems who succeeded him, Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo. Many people in the post WWII era in NY were Republicans b/c of the corruption of the Dem machines downstate and in the major upstate cities like Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. The Democratic Reform movements, especially downstate (my father was a leader in it), helped clean up or at least create sunshine laws that brought the corruption issues to the surface and sent the corrupt pols to jail. And frankly, while there are still problems, the Dem party in NY overall is far less corrupt than it was 50 yrs ago.

I lived in upstate NY during the early-mid 1980s which was a very interesting time to be there. Two things occurred at that time – deindustrialization resulting in huge job losses and the uncovering of the environmental impacts of yrs of unfettered pollution. I believe both have profoundly impacted that part of the state. The economy has never really recovered from the de-industrialization in terms of jobs but many parts of the state are beautiful and have had economic benefits come from this beauty. Many areas along the Hudson River have rebounded because of the removal of the factories and the revival of the River due to clean water laws. The removal of the PCBs dumped in the Hudson River by GE will only help this revival. Additionally, the Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes have become tourist draws and this occurred largely b/c the state govt protects these areas from development and environment degradation. People in this area understand this.

Plus my overall experience living in upstate NY was that these Republicans had a strong personal liberties streak and had little interest sticking their nose into abortion, birth control, etc. The only exception was the Buffalo area which tended to be liberal economically and culturally conservative.

Today’s National Republicans are anathema to what traditional NY Repubs have been about. With the exception of a few pockets, the message of govt stinks and I am going to regulate your personal behavior just isn’t a winning message in NY except in a few pockets of the state. In 2010 Tea Party darlings Carl Palladino and Joe DioGuardio were disasters in a yr when both Andrew Cuomo and Kirsten Gillibrand should have had to at least break a sweat to win but didn’t.

So considering these factors it should not be a surprise that Obama is doing as well as he is in NY against a party that is really far out of the mainstream in most of the country. The Republicans message isn’t just not a winner, it is poison to most parts of the state. And it wouldn’t shock me to see some of the 2010 Congresspeople and State Senators go down with the ship.

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