Today (Tuesday), the New York state senate has two by-elections. Should the Democrats win, New York state will be under unified Democrat control; the governor’s mansion and lower house are already blue, but the senate is still mostly Republican. One of the senate races is a safe-Democrat Bronx seat. So the only election that matters is the other race, taking place in Westchester County.
For British residents, the idea that Westchester County could be a tossup may seem baffling. The county is immensely rich. And unlike some wealthy inner-city neighbourhoods, it has very little poverty. It would be a bit like Surrey or Buckinghamshire being on the verge of voting Labour- simply unthinkable. And yet it will probably happen. Here’s why it should:
- Trump. The president loves to boast of his popularity. Voting Democrat in an area Republicans ought to be competitive in sends a very strong signal of how unpopular Trump really is, particularly in his home state.
- Avoiding gridlock. Having a unified state government allows more to get done. With a gridlocked government, urgent reforms tend not to get through. Since there’s no chance of the House or governorship going Republican, the only way to avoid gridlock is to make the Senate Democratic as well.
- Education. New York state spends more on education than any other state. While that doesn’t guarantee better results, it can certainly help. Voting Democrat keeps it that way.
- The environment. Pollution in the New York urban area is appalling. Although the Westchester Republican candidate, Julie Killian, has a decent record on environmental matters, she still represents a party largely in denial of climate change and unconcerned at the effects of pollution.
- Infrastructure. New York’s infrastructure is in desperate need of an upgrade. Not only are the roads falling apart, the subway is under immense pressure as well. Voting Democrat is more likely to result in infrastructure spending. Nationally, Trump talks of infrastructure spending, but has yet to commit any money. It’s unlikely a Republican administration in New York would do much to fix the problem.
- A commitment to the community. Westchester shouldn’t feel ashamed to be successful. But that success doesn’t exist only because its residents are harder working and more talented than anyone else. The county depends on the state to run a lot of its services. It also depends on working class and mostly black and Hispanic people to do the less attractive but necessary jobs- cleaning, waitering, plumbing etc. Voting Democrat shows a commitment to New York as a whole, including the less fortunate.
- Attracting the right sort of rich people. Let’s face it, America has two sorts of rich people. There are the liberal rich, who tend to work in the tech sector or in the media. With their excessive weed smoking and obsession with organic food, they can be highly infuriating from the perspective of the average American. But they are far better than the other sort of rich people, the conservative rich. These are the sort of people who spend too much time playing golf, own needlessly big cars (which they don’t drive well), and talk about how much God has blessed them (never mind the billions of people God has chosen not to bless for some reason.) They believe poverty isn’t much of a problem in America, but that their taxes are way too high (their taxes are amongst the developed world’s lowest.) Voting Democrat is a good way to get rid of them.
- De-radicalising the Democratic Party. There is a small minority of ultra-socialist Democrats who would like the party to become an exclusively working class outfit. They admire Cuba and Venezuela more than Denmark or Germany. For these people, having wealthy supporters is a sign of weakness and excessive moderation. If Westchester County votes Democrat, the American far-left becomes less powerful. Which is a good thing, both in terms of future electability and the quality of public policy.
- Reforming the Republican Party. If places like Westchester County vote Democrat, the party will have an impenetrable coalition of wealthy, college educated whites and ethnic minorities. Long-term, the Republicans can’t rely on working class whites alone- their proportion of the population is in serious decline. Voting Democrat now forces the Republicans to think about the future. This will hopefully mean a GOP that comes up with a serious policy platform to appeal to a broader range of people, instead of indulging the base with people like Trump.