Stray thoughts on the Republican dominance of Long Island
I grew up on Long Island in Hewlett (Nassau) and my dad grew up in Syosset (Nassau). I have been urging media to cover the political landscape on Long Island for years -- it is an extremely complex area. I am a lawyer and have witnessed firsthand the joke that is the justice system in New York. While judges are "elected," voters are not presented with a choice. A judicial candidate cannot simply enter the race -- years of dedicated cronyism is literally a prerequisite (as it is in NYC). For federal and state legislative and executive elections, it is vital to consider that New York is a power-sharing state for all intents and purposes -- meaning, the two parties do not actually have many differences when it comes to policy. The corruption runs deep within both parties. The elected leaders on Long Island exist on a separate plane from the people who live here. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat, was my representative for several years. In 2020 or 2021, she voted "no" on a bill that would have lowered prescription drug costs. I still have her responses to my emails on the topic, both of which merely bash the GOP. Of course, it isn't coincidence that she received PAC money from pharmaceutical companies. I also still have the emails that the head of the NYS Democratic Party sent in 2020 following gains in the state legislature by Democratic Socialists -- you would think they were sent by the GOP. In short, like this country, Long Island has been a one-party region for as long as I can recall. It is a party of deeply ingrained corruption and crime. This is not limited to Long Island -- one only need look to India Walton's election in Buffalo, which she won, only to be overtaken by the state Democratic Party in the general election, wherein they apparently disapproved of voters' primary choice and reran their preferred corporate candidate as a write-in (who did win).
I am 34 years old and cannot speak to NYS and Long Island politics before a certain point. However, my dad is of the mindset -- he has lived here for his entire life. Moreover, my mother's uncle was the chairman of the NYS Commission of Investigation in the 1960s and 70s. I have read and saved all reports and reporting on their findings, which did include elected officials on Long Island. For context, the Commission investigated Fred Trump as part of a major investigation into NYC government corruption. Despite the Commission's extensive findings of criminal activity, it cannot be said that any action was taken to prevent the Trump family from continuing to benefit from their ties to the powers that be. If you look at the history of the Commission, up to and including the Moreland Commission, there is a glaring trend of the state defunding the Commission -- the only semblance of governmental check that I am aware of.
Long Island cannot be viewed as an electoral democracy to the extent that the party in power represents the actual political leanings of its citizenship -- we have never been presented with a choice. Even when a candidate running on change does manage to slip through the cracks, the NYS Democratic Party has and will continue to make sure that candidate does not succeed. There is no local independent media to speak of, which has opened to the door to decades of unchecked corporate propaganda from both parties. There is a New Yorker profile from 2020 about then-County Executive Laura Curran's "successful" response to Covid in Nassau County, a piece that one would expect to run on Fox News had she been a Republican. I find it difficult to imagine a future for Long Island where voters actually have a say in who is on their ballot and who is ultimately elected without major structural changes that the official Democratic Party is not willing to accept.
I think there's a class conflict in the crime issue as well. Not in an upper vs. lower class way, but a feeling that the merchant class (whether it's a huge chain store or a mom-and-pop operation) is being victimized while the culture class (e.g. writers, social media activists, politicians) either ignores these problems or even secretly enjoys them. The merchant class can be roughly defined as having lots of money but little cultural power, while the culture class is vice versa (unless you're some big superstar). The merchant class generally sees the culture class as self-absorbed snowflakes while the culture class sees the merchant class as soulless boring money-grubbers, so there's a natural antagonism built into their relationship.
This former Bellmore guy really enjoys your hyperlocal coverage.
You're missing the point on the importance of the crime issue to people who don't even live where it is happening. The issue is not crime itself, but the dismissive and contemptuous attitude of the (unaccountable) legislators who run the state towards public concern about crime. They like to speak of crime impersonally, as being caused (tautologically) by "root causes" instead of criminals. In this way they release themselves from responsibility for assuring public safety. This is offensive in itself, and is also a warning bell that if crime does start to develop momentum, this government has no intention of doing anything to stop it. A lot of people, and especially older people, aren't buying this. We remember exactly how it was in 1990, and the role of slack and dismissive governance in causing that problem, and we do not intend to go back there. No.
My favorite book about Suffolk is Jimmy the King by Gus Acosta-Roberts, a former Newsday Reporter, about the other kind of crime: a dirty cop running the county.
One thing to also consider - most Long Island Republicans are basically the old school moderates, pretty much like old school moderate Democrats. Both Bruce Blakeman and Ed Romaine care about the environment and are responsible and not crazy at all. They are great retail politicians. They visit senior citizens at their homes and at the local Senior Center or VFW halls. They and their colleagues are woven into the community by many years of public service. Democrats, on the other hand, have no outreach, very little civic engagement and a completely broken local party system. I blame the local party leaders who have used the last few patronage jobs to benefit their friends and have basically gutted the Democratic Party - especially in Nassau County. A few two star generals and no army whatsoever. And they are ok with that because they still can make their friends judges and have titles like Chairman of the Board of Elections. I cannot even imagine how to rebuild from scratch an actual functioning Democratic Party - especially in Nassau. The current Republican Party in Nassau will likely be in power for the next fifty years unless something drastic changes.
It's a little too convenient to compare murders and shootings only to last year. While it is nice that things are trending in the right direction, we're still on track for murder to be up about 20% from 2017 and shootings up more than 50%. That is a big deal. To say nothing of all of the fact that felony assault is up again, and everyone can see the much greater levels of disorder resulting from the new refusal to take lower level crime and antisocial behavior seriously.
"Fears of crime—genuine, in a period where the murder rate would start to skyrocket—mingled with the openly racist view that a new people were bringing new problems with them." Very woke of you, it's easy to call people racist these days. But the racial breakdown of crime statistics inconveniently confirms that this "view" was accurate--then and now. Canarsie only became a (relatively) stable, middle class Afro-Caribbean community only after becoming a dramatically more dangerous and crime-ridden place than it had been previously.
Furthermore, everyone remembers how recently many prominent Democratic politicians in New York City were proudly endorsing abolish-police-and-prison lunacy. My reps all still feel that way even if they are quieter about it now.
A more interesting question is what makes Westchester County(or SW Connecticut for that matter) different from Long Island? I have a couple of thoughts. A mixture of older industrial cities(Yonkers, Mount Vernon, White Plains, Port Chester) along with residential suburbs. The fact the the county is part of the Northeastern Megapolis length wise so density doesn't really decrease that much even as one approaches the state line between Port Chester and Greenwich, CT? Influence of New England political culture seeping in from Connecticut?
In Westchester (pop 1mil) there were 119 opioid overdose deaths in 2020; in Nassau co. (pop 1.4mil) 356 overdose deaths in Suffolk County (pop 1.5mil) 937. I don't think opioids are the problem I think they point to the problem, Nassau and Suffolk are insular, downwardly mobile and more despairing. They're not places of great hope.
I remember there was a segment in the last episode of New York: A Documentary Film by Ric Burns with Ray Suarez talking about Long Islanders reactions to the 1975 fiscal crisis. He said that, despite the fact that many of them were born in the city and grew up there, they were delighted to hear Ford tell them to drop dead. He never expanded on the psychology of someone who felt that way and I wish he had. This post scratches that itch a little and that book on Canarsie I guess, but that generation is still alive and I’d be curious to hear about why they have such little attachment to the place that is so central to their culture and identity. I mean, I have my answers to those questions about them but I’d be interested in their side of it. My parents are among them but they never developed that kind of hostility to the city. Thomas Campanella’s book, Brooklyn: The Once and Future City makes the claim that the 1898 consolidation had an enormous impact on the self-esteem of the outer-borough residents and that white-flight was primed in those places by a kind of self-loathing that came from being in the shadow of Manhattan.
With a hometown newspaper like the NEW YORK Post....
I think that paper has done more to spread fear of crime than any other local media outlet. I know otherwise intelligent people who rely on the Post for their news either directly or through their are website or through social media clicks. The Post punches way above its circulation weight which is highly unfortunate.
If you rely on the Post, you'll think there's a mugger on every street and you're only too glad to spread your fear and gloom to anyone who will listen.
But, they do have the best sports section.