By Tom Allon
Like any proud New Yorker, I was outraged a few months ago when the sniveling senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, used the loaded term “New York values” in his attempt to smear liberal New Yorkers like me. He was attempting to bloody his main Republican presidential opponent, Donald Trump, by linking his native roots to liberal political beliefs.
Well, how did that turn out, Sen. Cruz?
I’m writing this column two days before Super Tuesday, and unless something strange happens (and this year, isn’t everything kind of strange in politics?), America will have woken up on Wednesday morning with the very likely prospect of a Hillary Clinton–Donald Trump cage match for the presidency. The only real unknown will be whether former Mayor Michael Bloomberg will make it a three-ring New York circus. Although I hope so, that doesn’t seem likely against an ascendant Hillary.
So, what have we learned and what can we expect over the next nine months?
We have learned to expect the unexpected. Anybody who tells you with confidence that they can predict this topsy-turvy year is either a frustrated pundit or someone who’s been taking too many controlled substances.
That said, and with a clean mind and body, I venture the following observations.
It goes without saying that a growing slice of America is pissed about the economy and the huge economic inequality gap. In the same way that the Civil Rights movement animated the 1960s and feminism surged in the 1970s and 80s and gay rights broke through in the aughts, I believe economic justice has become the singular theme of the teens.
Minimum wage, paid sick leave, maternity and paternity leave. Worker rights, more progressive taxation and limiting executive pay. Corporate social responsibility, sustainability, pay equity and real company diversity. Free public college tuition, student loan amnesty and university accountability for return on investment.
These are just some of the highly charged issues that the next president and the next Congress will have to contend with. Like the fictional anchor Howard Beal in the famous 1970s movie “Network” the public has said: “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
That’s why a supreme long shot like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has touched a nerve with young America and has made Hillary Clinton work hard for the Democratic nomination. Sanders is absolutely right: money has ruined our Democratic process.
His loud voice—and the passionate crowds who have attended his rallies—has dragged the party and Clinton to the left. The presumptive nominee must address these economic issues if she wants to keep Bernie’s base fired up for the November elections.
On the Republican side, well, at least we no longer have the dozen or so clowns who were in the race in late 2015 polluting our airwaves anymore. I am so happy that Wisconsin Sen. Scott Walker is no longer spreading his anti-union venom and Carly Fiorina, a pretender of a candidate if there ever was one, has taken her dour view of Planned Parenthood and of other progressive causes and gone back to what we hope will be a quiet, secluded retirement.
But, we still have the 800-pound Gorilla from Fifth Avenue, Donald Trump, on an even bigger stage than before. Despite some bruising playground scrapes with Ted Cruz and the not-ready-for-primetime senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, Trump will emerge as the last man standing in the GOP primary campaign. Could he be the Trojan Horse that finally blows up the regressive venom and obstructionism of the radical right?
Like almost everyone with manners, I find Trump’s style and rhetoric to be unacceptable and he has debased our culture. His xenophobia may have gotten him the Republican nomination, but that won’t fly in a general election where he will need intelligent independent voters who want a leader they can trust with his or her finger on the nuclear button.
But there are two things he has espoused that I believe are more progressive than Hillary’s stances: staying out of civil wars in the Middle East and repealing the unfair carried interest tax on hedge fund millionaires. Trump has spoken out about both of these issues and Hillary has, unfortunately, been strangely silent.
If nothing else, perhaps Sanders and then Trump can make Hillary a better candidate, a better leader and a more progressive president. She has almost all the right experience and beliefs—but her two blind spots are intervention in the Middle East and coziness with Wall Street.
No matter what, it seems that America is about to get at least four years of New York values. And that sounds just fine to me.
Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at tallo