Obama! Hillary Clinton! Edwards! New York primary! There… I think I’ve done more than enough to get those big-blogger hits.
But seriously, folks. Very simply, if Hillary Clinton can’t get New York excited, what reason is there to think she could get anyone else excited? And then that makes me wonder why anyone ever thought she ever got New York excited in the first place. In recent years there has been talk about how her “popularity” Upstate proved she could win people over in purple or even red states (quite a stretch), but what people never got is that Hillary isn’t popular in Upstate New York; she’s tolerated. Fairly well tolerated, in fact. But that’s because Upstaters can tolerate quite a lot. You try living ball-and-chained to The World’s Most Important City all your life; you grow a certain tolerance of Very Important People. It really has nothing to do with her.
Seven years ago, we were pretty much informed by The Powers That Be (and we Upstate Dems have long experience in having to do what The Powers That Be downstate say) that Hillary was coming in to the old Moynihan seat and taking over. And that was that; it’s not like anyone really had much say about it. It’s not like the New York Democratic Party had any original ideas or charismatic national figures of its own. She had her master plans, and who were we to complain? And after all, maybe we could get a little something out of the deal – our big-time rep in Washington. Did we really get any added value, though? I think Schumer did have, and still has, those bases covered, and never gave up much to her. How could anyone out-Chuck Chuck when it comes to “constituent service”? He can write the names of all 62 counties on a restaurant napkin! (Meanwhile, I’m still not sure that Clinton knows her Thruway exit number for Skaneateles…)
Sure, after a while she was pretty easy to tolerate, even by the Republicans. But then again, most rank-and-file Upstate Republicans are a different breed anyway; the subspecies Republicanus rockefelleri, often thought extinct, still thrives in deeply isolated pockets here (although I think we should have a new name for them, R. rockefelleri x indepentia.)
But among Democrats, I predict a frenzy of Obama-mania (and to a lesser extent, Edwards support) here in Upstate New York just as a cri de coeur on so many levels. In case no one’s noticed lately (which is very possible), Upstaters are deeply unhappy and have been for a long time. Where Obama is concerned, I detect a strain of hope flavored with a dash of gleeful rage — probably a rage that Obama himself would not recognize. Much of this rage is really not Hillary’s fault: it has to do with the ongoing mess in Albany which was Issue No. 1 in Upstate New York during the last presidential election year, and still is. Eliot Spitzer was supposed to be our savior (in some parts of Upstate, his election was regarded as something akin to the Second Coming, so you can imagine the disappointment at his first year in office). There simply isn’t any way you can adequately describe the level of frustration among the average engaged Upstate voter, and I think many may be in the mood to turn on someone — anyone. And if they can do it in the public eye during a big primary, so much the better.
I don’t really think this is how Obama or anyone else would want to win in New York, but I think negative Hillary ads would work well here. All too well. Maybe a little too well. And for reasons that don’t have a whole lot to do with Clinton herself.