So the Democrats didn’t fare well in the election. That seems pretty clear. On the other hand, at least (for them) they still control the Senate …
I spent Tuesday in the town of Peeksville in Westchester, campaigning on behalf of Democrat incumbent John Hall. Obama’s grassroots volunteer group, Organizing for America, paid for the train ride upstate, and we rattled along beside the gorgeous Hudson River, in a blaze of blue sky, blue water and autumnal colour. I met a lovely couple there (Democrats) who’d been sweethearts since high school. The husband described how the city had been a riverside holiday-town in the fifties when he was a young man, and then fell on hard times. Now, he said, it’s coming back.
At that late stage, we were knocking only on Democrats’ doors to remind them to vote. Notably, they made up a minority of houses in many of the areas we visited. Many were out at work, and the older people had voted early — one lady with a Polish accent and neat silvery grey hair said, “I worked for the city council. I remember what it was like. We can’t have that again.”
Outside the main Peeksville polling station tensions were high. Three or four Democrats were waving “Vote” signs. They told us that Republicans had called the police on them, accusing them of making rude gestures and dancing in the street (neither is actually illegal). While I chatted with a Democrat supporter a large car skidded past at speed. She leapt into the road in its wake, shouting, “I’ve got your information!” — the car had intended, she said, to run the sign-holders over (this I doubt — but it may have intended to scare or aggravate them).
Incidentally, Hall lost.
“I find the US system deeply confusing,” noted my friend Queen of Parks on this blog earlier in the week, and although I live here, I feel exactly the same. As a New York city resident, I’m insulated from the realities of life elsewhere in the States, nor do I really understand why people so passionately support the Tea Party or the Republicans. They must have some good reasons. Or is it, as a Democrat uncle of mine recently suggested, a case of “some combination of mass stupidity, mass lunacy, and sinister manipulation”?
It will be my mission to find that out, and I promise to record my light-bulb moments here. In the meantime, here are some choice tidbits about the system — cynical, corrupt, disloyal or plain strange — that I recently learnt:
1) Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor (a Republican but pretty liberal), extended term limits in 2008 so that he could remain in office. But in this election, he supported a proposal to change them back! The New York Times put it succinctly: Bloomberg’s latest on terms: 3 for him, but only 2 for everyone else.
2) Staten Island Democrat Michael McMahon lost his Congressional seat. That’s a pity, of course, but what sort of Democrat was he? He was the only New York City member of the House to vote against his own party’s heathcare bill.
3) Statewide, New York has given up the old voting machines — laughably archaic, but they worked — in favour of a paper ballet. You colour in little ovals in black to mark your vote, and place the sheet in a scanner, which gobbles it up. The process feels complicated and caused delays in several voting stations. It’s intriguing to see an upgrade that’s still decades behind the digital age.
4) Many New Yorkers are worried about possible plans to start a gas-drilling process called hydraulic fracturing (“hydro-fracking” for short) in upstate New York. It is known to poison land, and could pollute drinking water for 16 million people who live nearby. New York’s newly elected (Democrat) governor Andrew Cuomo has declined to take a stance on the issue.
5) California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman spent $160 million on her campaign, more than $140 million of it her own. Carly Fiorina spent $17 million running for Senate, $5.5 million her own. Both lost. See here for more astronomically big spenders.