OPINION: America’s New York State of Mind
New York, long the center of media, fashion and finance, is used to being a political afterthought. We are generally ignored during presidential elections and our government officials rarely obtain national power.
It wasn’t always this way. In fact, the city was the nation’s first capital, with George Washington being sworn in on the steps of Federal Hall.
Our political profile faded significantly after World War II, with Franklin Roosevelt’s victory in1944 being the last time a New Yorker was elected president. Gov. Thomas Dewey won the Republican nomination four years later, but since then no Empire State politician has come close to the White House.
Our political drought, however, is ending. New Yorkers Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are finalists for the oval office (with the Brooklyn-accented Bernie Sanders having made a credible run) — guaranteeing an end to our state’s presidential losing streak.
As further proof of our increased clout, Sen. Chuck Schumer is virtually assured of being elected the Democratic leader next January. This will make the Park Slope resident the first New Yorker to hold a Senate leadership post.
Most impressive about the rise of Schumer, Clinton and Trump is that they personify New York stereotypes. They are brash, bold, they get into your face.
Clinton’s reluctance to be contrite when confronted with mistakes is reminiscent of someone arguing over a parking space, while Trump comes across as a subway seat-hog on steroids. And it is said that the most dangerous place in Washington is between Schumer and a microphone.
Up until recently, these attributes would have been a drag on any New Yorker seeking a national profile. The state was too liberal, too loud, too self-assured about its place in America for the rest of the country.
That image changed after 9/11. The arrogant Goliath became the sympathetic underdog, showing grit, courage and compassion in the face of tragedy.
In the one dignified moment of his campaign, Trump answered the criticism that he exemplified “New York values,” by recalling the city’s exemplary response to the terrorist attacks, drawing applause from a Republican debate audience. In the eyes of Middle America, the Big Apple is less cocky, more vulnerable, more approachable than it used to be.
Meanwhile, the homogenization of American culture is making us more like the rest of the country. The malls and superstores that were previously confined to less cosmopolitan venues are now part of the city’s landscape, while Times Square, once notorious for smut, resembles a Disney theme park. New York may still be the city that never sleeps, but the internet doesn’t sleep, either. These trends make us appear less alien to the rest of the country and make power in the hands of New Yorkers seem less threatening than it once was.
Either way, in this ugly election year, we New Yorkers have more to celebrate than most Americans. After decades in the political wilderness, we are once again a city of national relevance, somewhere Washington’s power brokers will want to visit even if they can’t get “Hamilton” tickets.
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