A Dog That Didn’t Hunt This Time
The most deplorable thing about the general election was the awful choices voters were handed. The wife of a former President and a shady real estate mogul best known for hosting a reality television show? There was no way the outcome could be anything less than embarrassing. Each candidate deserved to lose.
There’s not much negative about Donald Trump that he didn’t say himself. He refused to even read the news during his campaign, brushing aside the pleas of his staff that he prepare for debates or learn about the world he was asking to lead. He’s arrogant and vulgar and his life is a monument to bad taste and delusions of grandeur. He’s been wrong about almost everything. But he was right on illegal immigration and crime and America is so desperate for people to speak at least partially honestly on controversial topics that this paid big dividends at the polls.
Hillary Clinton is an intelligent person with political skills and a mastery of the law and public policy. While there’s no doubt she got to where she was in large part because she is a former first lady, she’d be a formidable candidate and no question the most qualified by experience on the ballot. No one doubted her intelligence or her skill. But her career has been marred by repeated short-sighted judgements based almost solely on political calculation. In the end Hillary Clinton outsmarted herself.
The Clinton campaign followed the conventional wisdom of American politics that says accusations of racism is the Kryptonite of Republican candidates. Anyone so shamed with that scarlet ‘R’ is supposed to meekly apologize for whatever infraction they’ve committed, and sulk off to political purgatory. Trump threw that political calculus out the window and if fortune smiles upon our republic it will be his enduring legacy.
Trump set the stage early with his stand against illegal immigration. It was considered radical and extreme because he delivered a speech with his usual bombast. But the Democrats’ year-long overreaction to Trump’s stand against illegal immigration was their biggest gift to him.
You can’t solve a problem by pretending it doesn’t exist or trying to demonize those who want to fix it, even if your opponent is an ignorant blowhard. Illegal immigration on the scale we have now suppresses wages, brings criminal aliens into the country, poses serious public health risks, and often places unfair burdens on state and local governments forced to provide higher levels of service for populations that pay little or no taxes. You would have to be a reclusive millionaire not to see first-hand some of the negative effects unchecked immigration has had on our country. Somehow the view from Trump Tower was better than that from Chappaqua.
[N.B.: The idea of building a wall to solve the immigration problem shows just how clueless Trump is. Many if not most illegal immigrants enter the U.S. legally and then overstay their visas and Mexican cartels have shown themselves extremely adept at digging tunnels.]
Instead of serious policy solutions to issues of immigration and crime, Democrats delivered pompous moral lectures and in doing so they helped hand the election to Donald Trump. While it was impossible to cast a vote for either candidate, it was fun watching the premature Clinton victory celebration dissolve into a weepy pity party.
But what Trump supporters will soon realize is that they’ve been sold a false bill of goods. Trump is no real populist, and he’s aligned himself with religious conservatives hostile to science. It’s good to no longer ignore realities that were verboten in American political discourse, but Trump has never been interested in helping working-class Americans before. He’s a snake oil salesman. His willingness to speak a few harsh truths somehow overshadowed his bulwark of lies and empty boasts.
But the game has been changed in at least one positive way: The valid concerns of working-class Americans can no longer be shunted to the nether regions of the Internet by smearing them as “racist.” That’s the silver lining of Trump’s victory; it may be the only one.
News Flash: New York’s subways are horrible
Presidential candidate and former Secretary of State, carpetbagger Senator, First Lady Hillary Clinton was recently criticized for needing to swipe her MetroCard five times to access the New York City subway system. She rode the 4 train all of one stop after entering, and technically broke the law by campaigning in the subway.
There are a lot of things to criticize Hillary Clinton for, but the media focused on her needing five swipes to get her MetroCard to work. But the MetroCard incident (if you can even call it that) didn’t expose Secretary Clinton as being out of touch, it demonstrated what any New York City resident will tell you in a heartbeat: New York’s subways are horrible and only getting worse.
I’ve been a regular New York City subway rider for nearly 20 years now, I’m a seasoned professional when it comes to riding the subway, and there are times when I will need five swipes or more to get through the turnstile.
And the MetroCards and the turnstiles are only the tip of the iceberg. The entire subway system is unreliable, poorly run, and in need of massive reform reconstruction.
The same week that Hillary Clinton had her MetroCard wielding skills thrown into doubt, I visited the subway system’s newest station for the first time. The 34th St. – Hudson Yards station opened up last September to much fanfare as being the sleek, modern station of the future that the city had been waiting decades to see. I had to ask someone where it was because signs do not lead pedestrians to the station and it is surrounded by the massive Hudson Yards construction project. But once you find it, and this is old news now, the Hudson Yards station is a leaking boondoggle. When I got the station, all but one of the down escalators were out of service.
In theory the station is supposed to be ready in a few years to welcome thousands of people who work there and see off thousands of residents who will live there during the workdays. It can barely handle the small amount of traffic it gets now. In fact it proved to be a disaster even before it opened.
And the 7 train is the most overloaded train line in the system (though there are several other leading candidates for this honor, the L train being one of them). Even if the Hudson Yards station is the dream station it was meant to be by the time the construction on Hudson Yards is completed, there are no plans to double the tracks or the capacity of the trains, so the transit authority thinks that a few extra thousand users a day can be absorbed by the 7 line with no problem. That idea is absurd.
And as bad as the 7 line service is, there are actually train lines with less reliable service. Almost every workday, as I’m on my way to work. Emails from workers in the small office I work in arrive on my phone. Just about every day at least one or two people are emailing that subway or commuter train lines are messed up and they may be late for work. My first day back in the office this year after the holidays, it took me two and a half hours to travel 13 miles, and that was after I gave up and got out of the subway at Jackson Heights and took a cab the rest of the way to work.
Here is what New York City’s subway system desperately needs:
Infrastructure overhaul: New York’s subways are running on an antiquated switching system that in some places is more than 100 years old. There’s no excuse for that in a city as modern as New York.
More trains: No one should wait more than fifteen minutes for a train or bus anywhere in the system anytime. Am I unrealistic? No. It’s a matter of public safety at night as much as it is a matter of decent public transit.
Faster trains: The trains were made to run slower after an accident in the 1990s. Let’s reverse that and let the trains go at the speeds they are able to move. The way to avoid accidents is to avoid accidents, not degrade the service to mitigate risk.
More passenger capacity: The Long Island Rail Road has some trains that are doubled decker and can handle more passengers. There’s no reason we can’t have that for the city. The same applies to busses. If the tourist busses can be double decker, there’s no reason that some of our transit system busses can do that as well.
New York City is the greatest city in the world. It deserves to have a transit system that reflects that. We are far from that today.
2016 will be a good time to be a New Yorker
We can argue about the direction that the city is going and what our fortunes are as a city. That argument has been raging since the 1600s and won’t ever end. But whatever you think about the direction that New York is going, there are things to look forward to in this New Year.
Here are some of them:
Giant dinosaur exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. The Natural History Museum is one of the best places in New York to visit. The Hall of Marine Life alone is a full-bore Yankee assault on the senses guaranteed to tattoo good memories into your brain. Like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it is a place you will be at peace wandering for hours. You will discover great things and expand your mind. But if you can handle the crush of tourists that will be at the new dinosaur exhibit, it’s coming this month. At the center of the new permanent dinosaur exhibit is a 122-foot cast of a Titanosaur, a giant herbivore that would have weighed up to 22 tons when it was alive.
The 100th Anniversary of the Irish Easter Uprising. As a long-time epicenter of support for Irish independence and Irish republicanism, New York will no doubt see commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising, when a few dedicated Irishmen and Irishwomen pledged their lives and honor on the cause of an independent Irish nation. Many of them paid with their lives. A century later, the dream of a united Irish republic is still unrealized, though the violence in the North of Ireland has for all purposes ended. But just because the Troubles are over doesn’t mean there is real peace or a viable political solution. The Irish have invested in peace for nearly two decades now and Ireland is no closer to unity than it was in 1969. What now? Look to places like Rocky Sullivan’s in Red Hook, Brooklyn to host some interesting events.
Bombastic U.S. political theater. If you can forget that the presidential race might be important to the future of our country and the world at large, then this year’s presidential contest makes for stunning political theater. As of now the campaigns of the two presidential candidates leading in the polls, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, are based in New York, and if they each get the nomination of their respective parties, the Big Apple will be a political circus like never before. I would love to see both of them lose their nominations, but at it looks to me like Hilary Clinton will have a lock on the nomination (don’t take my word for it though, I thought she was going to get the nomination in 2008 and lose to McCain). Although we won’t see much actual campaigning in New York City—our state is usually a safe bet for Democrats—that one or both campaigns may be based in the five boroughs makes our city a player in the national race.
An extra day. This year is a leap year, which means February will have 29 days instead of 28 days. That gives you another day to enjoy New York and make the most of your life. Don’t waste it.
Two Presidential campaigns, one city
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have their presidential campaigns based in New York City. If both get their respective party nominations, we will have an all-New York presidential campaign. New York loves a big media circus, but America can do better.
Hillary Clinton moved to New York so she could someday run for president. She wasn’t the first person to do so. It was fitting that she held the seat Robert F. Kennedy once held, she was following his example. New York is now her political home. New Yorkers don’t resent her for this. Ours is the city of opportunity and even our current and most recent former mayor are originally from Boston. If she hadn’t quit her seat to run for president, New York voters would have returned her to the Senate even if she was found in bed with a dead girl or live boy.
Now Hillary Clinton is running for president again and her campaign headquarters is in fashionable Brooklyn. Democratic voters are desperate for someone else. She has unexpectedly fierce opposition from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who originally hails from the Brooklyn that was. There are so many strikes against Sanders by the dictates of conventional wisdom that his rise as a viable candidate is somewhat astounding. There are a few other candidates in the running for the Democratic nomination: former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.
Donald Trump has been a New York City fixture since he was born. His father, Fredrick Trump, was actually a self-made man who started his construction business at age 15 and built things that weren’t tacky pieces of crap. Some of his earlier buildings have historic recognition in Queens. Donald Trump gets credit for investing and revitalizing parts of Manhattan and Atlantic City, but his business acumen is highly suspect and he’s been a famous bloviating loudmouth for decades. Like Democratic voters who are drawn to Bernie Sanders, Trump supporters are desperate for anyone who is not an empty suit corporate mouthpiece. Trump has taken populist positions that run counter to what corporate donors want to hear. If he’s not willing to spend a lot of his own money on his campaign, he will likely not win since his campaign will run out of money without the support of large wealthy donors.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump share some important things in common: both coasted to their notoriety through family connections, both will take whatever position will earn them the most votes, and both would rather enjoy the trappings of power without having to talk to real people.
Clinton at least comes across as knowing what the job actually entails and having the capacity to do it, but she would be the same kind of vacillating, self-interested establishment politician the public despises; it’s no mystery that many Democratic voters are sick of her and rightly so. Donald Trump may not realize that being President would seriously restrict his accustomed lifestyle, and what works in closing real estate deals in Atlantic City isn’t going to work when negotiating nuclear arms deals. The cabinet is not a game show.
Trump has at least pushed the Republican Party to the right on immigration. His plan for mass deportations is poorly thought out but at least he’s saying a resounding “no” to what was considered standard conventional wisdom.
New York City would benefit from the media circus a Trump-Clinton matchup would bring, but we already are a 24-hour media circus. And New York and the country can do a lot better than a Clinton or Trump residency. A Trump nomination, or another Clinton or Bush nomination, will demonstrate that our republic has slipped past the point of no return down the slope of oblivion.