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All Local Politics Are Stupid (In Part Because They're National)

The dreary New York Voter Guide is a festival of anti-Trump show-offery and a failure to recognize what the offices and jurisdictions entail.

Shop window of a residential real estate business in Brooklyn. ||| Matt WelchMatt WelchWhen I first started covering politics three decades ago, one of the go-to campaign slogans you'd see on protest banners and bumper stickers was "Think Global, Act Local." It was an environmental pitch, to be sure, but there was a Serenity Prayer-style division-of-labor insight encoded as well: You might be motivated by your desire to combat apartheid/forestall nuclear war/stick it to Ronnie Ray-Gun, but you'll have a much greater likelihood of impacting current events on the board of the Isla Vista Recreation & Parks District.

If we were to update that graying motto in 2017, it might read "Think National, Act Stupid"—at least judging by the New York General Election Voter Guide, which plopped into my mailbox late last week like a sack of wet cardboard. The nonpartisan pamphlet, presented as a cheerful paean to civic involvement, is instead a festival of bad policy ideas frequently untethered to the job descriptions or even jurisdictions of the offices under competition.

"We've got to do more to make sure working families can afford to live in New York—and that means focusing on housing costs and the quality of our public schools, and creating more good-paying jobs," writes New York City's incumbent, uh, comptroller. (To the surprise of no one, Democrat/Working Families candidate Scott Stringer believes that the best way to create those good-paying jobs is to adopt a $15 minimum wage, a policy that has produced opposite results elsewhere.)

Stringer's Green Party opponent Julia Willebrand has an even more cognitively dissonant plan:

The Libertarian Party candidate, Alex Merced, is actually running on comptrollery-sounding promises like auditing spending, improving the city's credit rating, and safeguarding pension funds. He'll probably lose by 70 percentage points.

The more popular play among candidates is to transfer your anger about national politics to whatever position you may be running for. Conservative Party Public Advocate candidate Michael O'Reilly, for example, has a notably ambitious agenda:

In an even grander gesture, Green Party mayoral candidate Akeem Browder lists as his third most important issue, "Children, how we view them." Though Browder does get some creativity points, on capitalization grounds if nothing else, for the first sentence of his platform: "Every problem in New York has an inherent problem and that problem is New York's stance on allowing the Department of Justice to have a hand in Our every aspect of living."

Browder's Reform Party counterpart, Sal Albanese, is a bit more down to earth: "As Mayor, I promise to ride mass transit, at least sometimes, so that I can personally experience what's happening." Since there are so many colorful-sounding New York political parties and ballot lines (Smart Cities, Stop de Blasio, Dump the Mayor, etc.), I hereby call dibs on the At Least Sometimes slate.

In one-party fiefdoms such as New York, the marginalized competition can sometimes feel pretty marginal. And by that I do mean the Republicans:

It mostly does not get better. Brian-Christopher Cunningham, the Reform Party's man for City Council District 40, lists his current occupation as "N/A," and certainly did not waste any campaign money on editing help: "I am running for the New York City Council because in the last ten years I have seen first hand the residence in my district see over development and an 80 increasing in the cost of their rents," is the first sentence of Cunningham's platform.

But perhaps most drearily of all, even the slickest local pols know where the votes are in 2017, and that's in baiting the sitting U.S. president. My own City Councilman, Democrat/Working Families candidate Brad Lander (District 39), begins his voter-guide entry like so: "NYC must lead the way in standing up to Trump Administration bigotry, injustice & corruption." Sure, there are real-world policy responses to Trump's attempted crackdown on sanctuary cities, for example, but I suspect the more meaningful data point here is the number 86: That's how many percentage points Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by in Lander's district.

Lander, who is running unopposed (I intend to write in area resident Jim Epstein), is actually a diligent sort on local issues, if a bit on the Elizabeth Warren side of things, and he always performs admirably at little community ceremonies and so forth. But his post-election pivot to the #Resistance veers too often into a mirror image of Trumpian divisiveness for my taste:

The depressing thing about all this is that Lander is responding logically to the incentives around him. I've chatted about the anti-Trumpification of local politics with two senior New York Democrats in various green rooms, and their responses were the same: Hey, that's what you've gotta do these days.

Brownstones for sale, but only if you vote right. ||| Matt WelchMatt WelchWhile there will always be a sliver of the population passionate about such important local issues as zoning along the rehabilitating Gowanus canal, most politics as publicly expressed these past 11 months have been about the hated orange man in the White House. That picture to your right was in the shop window of a residential real estate company on the busiest commercial thouroughfare in my neighborhood. (Here's another lovely one.) This is the type of area where you can take anti-Trump yoga classes, and see fliers in shop windows at toddler level with messages like this:

Kids,

Ask your parents if they like Trump or support him in any way. Then, if they say they do, remind them that it's not right to lie, cheat, mislead and be a racist and that if they continue thinking that way they cannot ask you to not lie, cheat, mislead [or] be racist either.

The more we fetishize politics and power at the presidential level, the more our local communities become not refuges away from the Beltway din, but comfort zones of voter blocs aligned either for or against the faraway emperor. It's not a healthy trend.

Oh well, at least I have a couple of candidates I'll vote for enthusiastically next week. Borough President Ben Kissel, come on down!

Photo Credit: Matt Welch

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  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Ask your parents if they like Trump or support him in any way. Then, if they say they do, remind them that it's not right to lie, cheat, mislead and be a racist and that if they continue thinking that way they cannot ask you to not lie, cheat, mislead [or] be racist either."'

    Ah the stupidity.

    It totally gloss over the notion that you should never lie, cheat, mislead, or be a racist, regardless of you're parent's position.

  • Bubba Jones||

    When I lie, cheat and steal, I blame Trump!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    My eyes bugged out at that. Jesus Christ. I wish more people realized that politics are not this important.

  • albo||

    It's the politicization of everything. Living a politicized life must be very boring. And if you do any shopping, it must be very hard to be consistent.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    When I first started covering politics three decades ago...

    Ha! Old.

  • lap83||

    unless he was like the kid in Almost Famous, except following ancient, dull politicians instead of cool rockstars.

  • lap83||

    "listen to JFK's UN address with a candle burning and you will see your entire future"

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I would see that film.

  • Chipper Morning Truthjammer||

    Matt started wearing a tie before he stopped wearing diapers.

  • Hank Stamper||

    When did he stop?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    God, New York sucks.

  • Chipper Morning Truthjammer||

    Fuckin A, man. There are horrible states, and then there is New York.

  • Uncle Jay||

    "There are horrible states, and then there is New York."
    I guess you've never been to Illinois.

  • Mickey Rat||

    New York State is quite nice. New York government is a wretched hive and the pols glorify in it.

  • lap83||

    "Trump and his friends are killing democracy"

    Because Hillary was the populist candidate that everyone liked and somehow, the evil supergenius Trump and his elite friends, destroyed her as the popular choice? Ok....

  • Eidde||

    Hey kids, ask your Mommy and Daddy if they voted for Hillary Clinton. If they voted for someone who laundered foreign bribes through their foundation, then they can't very well ask *you* not to do so!

  • Rich||

    "We've got to do more to make sure working families can afford to live in New York"

    Kick out the families that aren't working?

  • Rhywun||

    This guy gets it.

  • Ska||

    I'm still working on the douche that built a camp outside my local subway station.

  • CE||

    No, the candidate was going to improve the schools and create better paying jobs. Both of which would seem to make houses even more expensive, because more people want to live where the schools are good and good work is available.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Lefty Democrat have been making America worse, than it could be, for decades.

    Social security, medicare, Medicaid, welfare, ObamaCare, TARP bailouts, most US wars are started by Democrats, RINOs are Democrats playing Republican, etc etc etc.

  • Hugh Akston||

    RINOs are Democrats playing Republican

    Even when it's the Republicans' fault, it's the Democrats' fault. Maybe especially when.

  • Jay Dubya||

    Go team!

  • Rich||

    You have the right to vote in a general election if:

    You are a registered voter.
    You are inside your polling place no later than 9:00 p.m. on Election Day.

    Ha! I *knew* it! You DO NOT have to be ALIVE!

  • Eidde||

    "Uh, my friend Bernie is disabled and needs my assistance, can I escort him to the voting booth?"

  • Jay Dubya||

    TRIGGER WARNING: discrimination against the corporeally disabled

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The Libertarian Party candidate, Alex Merced, is actually running on comptrollery-sounding promises like auditing spending, improving the city's credit rating, and safeguarding pension funds. He'll probably lose by 70 percentage points.

    How gauche.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It's interesting how people will bitch and moan about the roads being shit and services being inefficient, but when they vote they vote for the guy who's platform is to save the city from carbonated beverages.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The more popular play among candidates is to transfer your anger about national politics to whatever position you may be running for. Conservative Party Public Advocate candidate Michael O'Reilly, for example, has a notably ambitious agenda:

    This is something that seems to creep into everything nowadays. Question for the group: Is the Front Yard Manifesto Virtue-Signalling Sign like a big thing everywhere or is it just where I live?

  • Bubba Jones||

    My neighborhood is 95% republicans who find Trump rather abrasive.

    So, no signs here.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    A house a couple doors down from mine still has a Clinton/Kaine sign out front, and one around the block still has a Bernie sign, so yeah, it's everywhere.

  • Chipper Morning Truthjammer||

    The joke is on you. That's how your neighbors keep the racoons out of their attic. Guess where they all end up?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Yeah that's not quite what I'm talking about, but yeah, the Dennis Kucinich sign in the front yard is certainly a statement, a subtle one, but a statement to be sure.

    I'm talking about front yard placard staked into the ground with the three paragraph statement that describes the political and social beliefs "in this house".

  • CE||

    way to make your guests and relatives feel welcome.

  • MarkLastname||

    Kucinich? There's nothing subtle about that haircut.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I like when they have three different posts so they can have it in English, Spanish, and Arabic.

  • Arizona_Guy||

    Yard signs? No.

    I do still see a bunch of Bern bumper stickers.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I still saw Gore 2000 stickers on old fucking cars while still in school. Those things last forever

  • buddhastalin||

    Housing units in San Francisco generally do not have front yards. So instead people put up signs in their window that say "Fuck Trump" or "Resist" or whatever leftist slogan du jour.

  • EscherEnigma||

    I've always assumed the yard-sign-war was a swing-state thing, as I've never actually seen it in real life. Do you live in a "swing" state?

  • Eidde||

    So, several of the NYC candidates are saying "look over there at what Trump is doing!"

    What are they afraid people will see if they *don't* look over there?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Replying to @MattWelch
    1. I prefer the US Senate to have serious debate before they take health care from 20+ million Americans (incl. many of my constituents).

    Would you like a little topical ointment with that Burrrrn, Matt Welch?

  • Bubba Jones||

    I like how he seems oblivious to the question. Let's say we all agree republican senators are bad. How does that inform my local choice between the Working Democrats and the Democratic Workers?

  • Rhywun||

    He's obviously positioning himself for higher office. In his mind, he's already there, and the little people like Matt bleating their little questions don't even register.

  • josh||

    There are lots of local officials who think their job is to simply complain about what's happening elsewhere. I remember when our city council had a very serious debate and voted on the Iraq War...that was good government at its finest!

  • GILMORE™||

    Look, there's no time to quibble over these minor details: if you elect the wrong person, WHITE PEOPLE WILL RUN OVER BROWN CHILDREN IN THEIR TRUCKS

  • Eidde||

    Brought to you by the "don't eat pizza right before bedtime" Foundation.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Comments are disabled for this video.

  • Idle Hands||

    Better than throw grandma off the cliff? It's close I think I like this one better, one minor quibble how could they not have the dukes of hazard horn blaring at the end.

  • GILMORE™||

    White men in suits are nearly as awful as white men with trucks. They both want people to pay for stuff with their own money! which is basically murder

  • Idle Hands||

    Better than throw grandma off the cliff? It's close I think I like this one better, one minor quibble how could they not have the dukes of hazard horn blaring at the end.

  • Idle Hands||

    Better than throw grandma off the cliff? It's close I think I like this one better, one minor quibble how could they not have the dukes of hazard horn blaring at the end.

  • Idle Hands||

    Better than throw grandma off the cliff? It's close I think I like this one better, one minor quibble how could they not have the dukes of hazard horn blaring at the end.

  • Idle Hands||

    Better than throw grandma off the cliff? It's close I think I like this one better, one minor quibble how could they not have the dukes of hazard horn blaring at the end.

  • Eidde||

    OK, OK, I get it!

  • Chipper Morning Truthjammer||

    Jesus, how many grandmas did you Old Yeller?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    The next video is a Kids in the Hall sketch and so now I wonder if any of this was real.

  • Chipper Morning Truthjammer||

    Which one? The Canadian canoe hunters? The These Are The Daves I've Known song? Chicken Lady?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    There was some minor functionary on the local Western Mass news last week complaining that we "have to do something about regulations that specifically target children". This was in reference to a drive to give mothers MORE welfare money. So to this lady, not giving mothers enough welfare money specifically targets children.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Not giving is taking, and therefore if you don't give money to mothers you are taking it from them (and by extension from their children).

    This is why i left $1.73 on your mom's dresser this morning. You're welcome.

  • Eidde||

    Strange, I left $20 on your mom's dresser because that's what she said you always leave.

  • Chipper Morning Truthjammer||

    Citizen X just got badly burned by Eddie. What will his next move be? Stay tuned.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Game recognize game, but the implication of incest was a bit much.

  • Chipper Morning Truthjammer||

    I mean, who charges for incest?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    The whole thing said more about Eddie than it did about me.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Incest is the hot new thing with the young kids these days. Japan has been pushing it more lately.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I blame Game of Thrones.

  • Eidde||

    OK, now I feel bad. I should have simply done a "yo momma so fat" joke.

  • Eidde||

    Yo momma so fat she doesn't have to use utensils because the food is simply sucked into her mouth by the force of her gravitational field.

  • Eidde||

    There, was that a bit more tasteful?

  • Eidde||

    Great, now I feel guilty, Look, citizen, I'm really sorry, I'll try to do better.

  • MarkLastname||

    Yo momma so fat, two guys can fuck her at the same time and still never meet (you two still haven't met, right?)

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Yo Block Yomomma is so white that Democrats were comfortable voting for him.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    As a retired person, I'm sure she appreciates any form of income.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It's been a hard winter, and I know Ol' Widow Poser needs any help we can give. God bless.

  • Rhywun||

    Public Advocate

    I actually saw one of the non-lefty candidates for this bogus position on TV the other day arguing that no, the office is not actually intended to be a rubber-stamp of everything mayor says nor a stepping-stone to that position. Almost fell out of my chair.

  • Eidde||

    Aren't all officials supposed to advocate for the public? What's distinctive about the public advocate's advocacy?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    You're stupid!!!!!

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: All Local Politics Are Stupid (in Part Because They're National)

    All politics are stupid because we have narcissistic egomaniacs running for public office to soothe their pathetic and inflated egos.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    The worst thing about disgusting shitholes like Brooklyn is they suck so fucking bad people almost inevitably get fed up and leave to move to a decent, civilized place, but then the idiots almost always bring that same loser attitude with them and eventually when they reach a critical mass of numbers, they end up turning their new decent neighborhood into the same kind of cesspool they fled in the first place.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Yeah, well, try to find some legal argument against the "Freedom of Movement" then. 'cause so long as a state can neither force citizens to stay, or prohibit them from moving in, there's nothing to be done.

    You might also need to take a swing at the Fair Faith and Credits clause, as that's also an important enabler that means folks can move around as they want and bring their values with them.

    Or maybe you should just go after voting rights, and try to find a (legal) way to make sure only the right people, however you want to define "right", get to vote.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Look, just stay off of Old Simple Mikey's lawn if you know what's good for you, buster!

    Goddamn degenerate kids with your haircuts and your flapadoodle swing music.

  • Warren||

    Oh well, at least I have a couple of candidates I'll vote for enthusiastically next week. Borough President Ben Kissel, come on down!

    His leading issue is Rent Control. Fuck you Matt.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Think glow-ball, act loco.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Don't remember whether this trend started in LA or NY, but I don't care that much, because I never wanted to live in those hellholes.

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