<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Uretsky NY Primary Not As Much Fun As We Hoped

N.Y. Primary Not As Much Fun As We Hoped


With the Presidential Primaries of April 19 (Dems: Hillary Clinton 57.9%, Bernie Sanders 42.1%; Repubs: Donald Trump 60.5%, John Kasich 25.1%, Ted Cruz 14.4%) the people of New York demonstrated that they could overcome the collective feeling of Primary Envy. This applies primarily to the residents of downstate New York who have already learned that the Yankees don’t always make the playoffs and that some people don’t consider New York Values to be the international standard of behavior.(although it’s easy to imagine Ted Cruz sitting up with a bottle of Jack Daniels saying “how could I have known it would go on so long?”)

In recent years the presidential candidates of both parties have pretty well been decided by Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and sometimes South Carolina. In extreme cases there still might be a contest going on until Super Tuesday but beyond that it’s all over except for the telephone calls asking for money.

It has been decades since the New York primary actually mattered when it came to choosing a nominee. The system sort of makes sense even if it does leave a lot of people feeling left out. Running a presidential campaign is extremely expensive, so that by starting small candidates who don’t yet have a rich uncle can audition. If they can win one or more of the relatively affordable media markets then maybe somebody will step forward and finance trips to California, Florida and Texas. Not that the candidates don’t come to New York, but if they bother asking for votes it’s strictly as an afterthought.

This time around, the candidates have been actually campaigning, although there’s evidence of extreme fatigue. It’s standard behavior for presidential candidates to eat something with a local association, Philadelphia cheese steak, corn dogs in Iowa, deep-dish pizza in Chicago and thin-crust pizza in New York. They tried, halfheartedly. Bernie Sanders went to Nathan’s in Brooklyn, ate a hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard, then left. Hillary Clinton, whose campaigns in other states had featured a chicken burrito bowl, pork chop and ice cream, was photographed looking at a slice of cheesecake, but she declined to eat. This was probably a wise move, since the cheesecake bakery is moving from New York to New Jersey. The N.J. primary will be held on June 7, the same day as California. New Jersey may not get much attention.

The best and worst example of campaign eating came from John Kasich, who ate a slice of pizza with a knife and fork. The accepted method for eating NY pizza is by folding a slice down the middle. Gov. Kasich had started the day by explaining the Torah to a group of Orthodox Jews and then went to a “Kosher style” deli. He ate a bowl of chicken soup with kreplach (Jewish won tons.) But after that he turned down a pastrami sandwich. The Wall Street Journal calls pastrami “New York’s signature sandwich” and top-rates the Second Avenue Deli, which really is Kosher. In spite of that, the Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods gave Kasich their votes. He tried.

It’s impossible to read much into the New York results. On April 13, Bernie Sanders drew 27,000 people to a rally in Washington Square Park, beating the previous record of 24,000 set by Barak Obama in 2008. On April 16th, Sanders drew an even larger crowd in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. The problem is that New York has a closed primary and party registration has to be about a month before the primary. Of all the states, New York has the hardest rules for changing party registration and requires the longest time before the primary to register with a party. These are long standing rules going back decades, and were probably set so that New York’s elected politicians knew whom they were dealing with. There’s a question now whether these rules are fair. They’ve been around so long that they’re hardly recent disenfranchisement, although they do make it more difficult for candidates like Sanders and Trump who may be building support in the two or three weeks before the primary. According to The Hill, Sen. Sanders said, “Today, 3 million people in the state of New York who are independents have lost their right to vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries. That’s wrong.” In contrast, Donald J. Trump, who is having trouble with the rules of the Republican National Convention, was fine with the New York State rules. Still, Sen. Sanders took two days off to fly to Italy to meet the Pope, and left for Maryland before the votes were in.

For the first time in decades, New York had a presidential primary where the votes actually mattered, but it was a lot less fun than it looked like from the television coverage of Iowa. Hey, Big Daddy California holds its primary on June 7. Maybe that one will be exciting.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email sdu01@outlook.com.

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2016


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