I live in New York’s 20th congressional district, upon which the eyes of the nation are riveted at the moment as Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco battle it out to fill Kirsten Gillibrand’s empty seat. Many are trying to make this a referendum on the Obama administration. But the truth is, nothing Obama has done since taking office could have swayed any vote in my county one way or the other. Half the county is local rednecks descended from families who’ve lived here forever, and they despise the other half: New York cityfolk who moved up here from Manhattan, along with academics like me at the local colleges. The cops are all Republican. Get stopped for speeding, and if you can prove your area code isn’t 212, you might get let off. Recently at a political rally, a woman Democrat started arguing with a Republican man, and the Republican punched her in the nose: the police, of course, arrested the woman for disturbing the peace, and the Republican judge ruled against her. Bard students peacefully protested after the 2004 election, and police wrestled them to the ground, after which the local Republican judge threw the book at them. At a city meeting at my town, a distinguished older gay citizen (formerly from the city, of course) spoke and got called “faggot” by one of the police, who hustled the gay man off to jail for the crime of speaking his mind – and the worse crime of not having originally been from around here.
So the district is divided just about exactly in half between long-time locals and displaced New Yorkers and academics. Who everyone voted for could have been predicted months ago, or years. (Democrat Gillibrand, whom I like, did well here by courting the NRA) The only insight one could possibly wring from this election is what the current proportion of rednecks and city folk is – a matter of some interest to locals, perhaps, but one that sheds no light whatever on the public reaction to Obama.
A neighbor put up a huge hand-painted sign up on his property in November that said, “NOBAMA.” I thought of countering with one that read, “TediscNO.”