Candidate familiarity will surely breed voter contempt

Home | Op-Ed | Candidate familiarity will surely breed voter contempt

May 15, 2016

Given the trajectory of the presidential primary races preceding New York’s ballot April 19 and the results of the six primaries April 26 and May 3, it is clear that for once New York’s vote was pivotal and likely decisive for both parties.

Prior to New York, Bernie Sanders had won eight of the nine immediately previous contests and Ted Cruz had significantly eroded Donald Trump’s delegate lead through outright primary victories in state delegation fights. New York stopped the Cruz ascent and paved the way for six additional Trump wins, driving Cruz and John Kasich from the Republican race. In the Democratic contest, Sanders gamely battles on, but New York all but obliterated his path to nomination.

By delivering resounding victories to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two most disliked presidential candidates in recent history, New York’s primary voters made it very likely that for the first time since 1944, when Franklin Roosevelt opposed Thomas Dewey, two New Yorkers, will emerge as nominees of the major parties.

It is clear that the most important factor in Clinton’s and Trump’s New York victories was their home-field advantage. Cruz increased Trump’s edge by attacking “New York(‘s) values (as) socially liberal, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage and focus(ing) around money and the media” during a televised debate in January.

For his part, Vermonter Sanders failed to significantly reduce Clinton’s native daughter claim with visits to his Brooklyn ancestral neighborhood and veiled references to Clinton’s carpetbagger adoption of New York when running for the United States Senate at age 53 and while still living in the White House.

Now that New York likely gets the presidential subway series we overwhelmingly voted for, are we happy, and should we be? Each of us might profitably ask and answer those questions.

Food for thought as one considers the answers is that this fall’s contest likely will feature the most distrusted pair of nominees in history, deepening the antipathy for New York that Cruz crudely and inartfully tried to employ in support of his candidacy.

The caution here is against reflexive votes for homeys, especially when the elected will lead the United States and free world from a nation where clear majorities consider both candidates dishonest.

The rationale for electing a candidate perceived as one of your own is familiarity, often a euphemism for laziness while participating in this vitally important process. Awhile back, I discussed with several schoolmates the candidates for trustee of a school we had attended. One person said he would vote for a nominated classmate. To my retort that the nominee was an SOB, he responded “yeah, but he’s ours.” And when our SOB was elected, he performed like one, instead of the possibly superior candidates that we didn’t know and made little effort to evaluate.

We know all about Donald Trump, who has been in New Yorkers’ midst for decades. We know that he employed and exported work to foreign labor and victimized vulnerable veterans attending Trump University, while rhetorically championing the interests of American blue-collar workers and vets during this year’s presidential campaign. As for Hillary Clinton, who 1992 presidential candidate Bill Clinton assured us would be co-president in a “you get two for the price of one” bargain, she fulfilled that promise as a powerful supporter of the Clinton administration’s dismantling of the social safety net and erection of a regime of mass incarceration. But she still got the home vote April 19 and that of African-American New Yorkers in even greater measure.

If New York’s primary vote resulted from careful deliberation by the electorate, resulting in selection of the best or least worst available candidate — that may have made sense. However, if as one suspects, these were just comfortable and reflexive ballots for the devils we know — we may come to bitterly regret those decisions.



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