As the dust finally begins to settle from the senatorial pick, the truth becomes plain: Chuck Schumer is the lord and master of the Empire State. It took a while. He’s churned through the equivalent of the entire Adirondack Preserve in press release pulp… stepped in every cow patty in the North Country… and visited every down-and-out gray burg along the Erie Canal. And then there was that Hillary speed bump. But he’s finally done it. He’s even now got his own real protege.
And I think that’s what is really irking the irked, down in the many centers of power down there. They were trembling breathlessly and waiting in the wings for their big moment… and then were smoked by a pro. I respect the anger of progressives who are really working in the trenches, those who hate the Gillibrand choice. But the dismay of the Albany/NYC wine and cheese set… if there is such a pure subset… yeah, I can laugh. Especially when they are taking out their fury on Paterson out of all proportion to any of his sins in this matter.
But back to the Emperor Chuck. New York loves its Uberpols. It’s a big state. It doesn’t want a dictator, but it wants one. As long as a politician is perceived to be strong and in control and as long as he/she purports to care about everyone, it doesn’t matter where they’re from.
Spitzer was widely seen as the next great Uberpol, and it was a shocker when he failed. It isn’t enough to be merely abrasive; and an abrasive personality who insults half the populace surely won’t advance (ask Ed Koch). Schumer may not be an Uberpol, but he is popular statewide because he has an optimum balance of in-your-faceness and frequent flyer miles. I can’t see him or anyone he mentors stumbling any time soon, unless the mentee is stupid, which Kirsten Gillibrand certainly is not.
The economic crisis has only underscored a key truth about who we are: New Yorkers are not nice people. They are, at heart — and from whatever region they hail from — proud survivalists. They are egotists. It’s why Upstaters never give an inch (at least in their own minds) to the encroachments of Downstate. It’s why the spirit of the Big Apple is that they’re God’s gift to the Universe. It’s why the Haudenosaunee are still around and still players. It’s why women dared to speak up here and create the Declaration of Sentiments. In an economic downturn, no one here is going to go all egalitarian. They are going to look out for Number One. And anyone who appeals to that instinct on a statewide level, is golden.
I’m not saying this is admirable. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. But you can’t get past it. Everyone in this state has an attitude. I don’t know what the Latin is for Where’s My Cut? but that is the real state motto.
And the economic situation throws this character into the light. New Yorkers of all regions and political persuasions want much more of the national cut than they have been getting. Especially now that the pie is shrinking. We are not in for a new era of national togetherness and common purpose, no matter what the President says… we are in for a scrum. We’ve already seen it with the banks. Now, the states are jumping in. The most rapacious ones will probably prevail. And New York, jolted by what has happened on Wall Street, is going to be in it for New York alone.
Even the normally fragmented Upstate contingent has formed caucuses (plural!) to git da money.
There is one that consists of all Upstate Congressmen (Dems and GOP), and another that consists of all Upstate Democrats (Congressmen and Assembly and State Senate).
I’m not sure I like the idea, ideologically, of an all-out unholy-alliance pork-assault on Obama’s stimulus efforts (whenever they comes along). It implies a collapse of order, and too much potential unfairness if progressives (and/or Upstaters) don’t fight for their share. Self-interest can easily turn into elite self-interest. That said, at least Schumer is conscious of his own power and the potential power of a united New York. It’s why I think Gillibrand wasn’t a poor choice. But just because we’re riding with the Cossacks now doesn’t mean anyone should stop watching their back.