Among the good people we lost in 2017 was Maurice “Mickey” Carroll. A mentor in my early days of journalism, Mickey spent his last years as the face of Quinnipiac University’s polling operation, though he never lost his habit of making points through amusing stories.
One seems especially relevant to our hyper-polarized times. As Mickey described it, a New Jersey town with a population 90 percent Irish and 10 percent Jewish held a mayoral election, with a candidate from each tribe.
After the Irish candidate got 90 percent of the vote and the Jewish candidate got 10 percent, the Irish candidate hailed the show of municipal unity while condemning Jewish clannishness!
The story is uncomfortably close to the everyday reality New Yorkers endure, with the victors routinely spying clannishness in the defeated.
Consider that Mayor de Blasio kicked off his second term by inviting Sen. Bernie Sanders to his inauguration, where the Vermont socialist trotted out his favorite whipping boys, millionaires and billionaires.
Auditioning for Sanders’ support, de Blasio himself denounced “this heyday of hatred, this new dawn of divisiveness,” presumably coming from Donald Trump. Then he lined up his usual list of bogeymen, saying New York is no longer run by “the big landlords and big developers” and “the titans of Wall Street and the 1 percent.”
From tax cuts to deregulation to building up the military to his judicial selections, Trump’s policies are far more mainstream and deliberate than even many of his supporters anticipated.
In other words, hate and divisiveness are fine — as long as you hate the right people. The attack seemed especially ungrateful given that big developers are de Blasio’s biggest donors, but being a politician means never having to say you’re wrong or sorry.
Gov. Cuomo has a bogeyman, too, the new federal tax law. He calls GOP supporters of it “Benedict Arnolds” who are guilty of “treason.” He claimed the law was designed to hurt New York and other high-tax states, calling it “an economic dagger pointed at the heart” of blue bastions.
His language is reckless and his argument financially illiterate, for most New Yorkers will get a tax cut thanks to the law, and slashing corporate rates should produce more jobs for New Yorkers. But Cuomo has risen above facts and appeals only to an “us against them” tribalism, where “them” is anybody who disagrees with him.
Yet the search for the darkest heart in New York politics must stop with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Having recently filed his 100th legal action against the Trump administration, Schneiderman revealed his radical rationale.
“We try and protect New Yorkers from those who would do them harm,” he told a reporter. “The biggest threat to New Yorkers right now is the federal government, so we’re responding to it.”
Silly me, I thought the biggest threat to New Yorkers were Islamic radicals determined to top the horrors of 9/11, North Korean nukes aimed at us, and maybe the possibility the subway system will grind to a screeching halt.
But now that Schneiderman has set me straight, I realize we should all lie awake at night, terrified of distant policymakers who have a different view of government than Schneiderman does. After all, there’s nothing more dangerous than democracy when the other side wins.
The really scary part about this fear-mongering is de Blasio and Cuomo want to go national with their apocalyptic visions. To demonstrate his all-in commitment to resisting Trump, the mayor even floated the idea that American cities should refuse federal infrastructure money.
Thankfully, none of the other mayors in the room was buying his bunk, which would have hurt New Yorkers just so he could score political points with the far left and raise money from hate-Trump megadonors like George Soros and Tom Steyer.
But that moment of common sense — or at least an unwillingness from the other mayors to turn down free federal money — is proving too rare these days. Trump, for all his flaws and quirks, is pursuing fairly conventional ideas from the Republican playbook, but for the left to admit that would be to normalize him and deprive themselves of using fear as a weapon.
But it remains nonetheless true that, from tax cuts to deregulation to building up the military to his judicial selections, Trump’s policies are far more mainstream and deliberate than even many of his supporters anticipated.
Above all, with each passing day, it gets harder to deny the Trump effect on the economy. With the stock market hitting some 70 new highs, and with consumer and business confidence at record highs and unemployment at record lows, the slow-growth Obama years are looking worse and worse. And cruel because it’s now achingly obvious the former president’s policies denied millions a spot on the ladder of opportunity.
Yet fish gotta swim and deniers gotta deny, so Democrats can be counted on to spread fear. Many already are demanding Trump’s impeachment, even when they need to concoct a parade of horribles out of whole cloth to justify it.
That’s the current state of play, and as we get deeper into the midterm campaign, it’s worth keeping a close watch on how far Dems will go with their fear mongering, and how much success they will have with it.
My hope is that they won’t get far at all, and will be forced to offer voters honest alternatives instead of just loud false alarms. Or is that asking too much?