The funny thing about New York’s brutal election — where congressional losses cost Democrats control of the House of Representatives with DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney losing his own race in the Hudson Valley and Long Island turned all red as the party’s turnout plummeted while Republicans improved on their margins from 2020 in every(!) single(!) one(!) of the state’s 62 counties and even cracked 25% in the Bronx, nearly tripling their vote share there from 2018 while more than doubling it in Brooklyn and Queens — is that, within the Empire State, the Democratic powers-that-be came out just fine.
There are as many registered Democrats here as Republicans and independent voters combined, and the party retained full control of Albany.
Democrats kept their veto-proof supermajority in the Assembly and will likely keep it in the state Senate once the counting is done, which would be a symbolic victory even as it’s hard to imagine Democratic lawmakers getting vetoed by a Democratic governor and then overriding that veto.
Chuck Schumer of Park Slope, to his happy surprise, will still be the majority leader in the U.S. Senate next year and Hakeem Jeffries of neighboring Prospect Heights is poised to be the party’s new minority leader in the House.
It’s an All Brooklyn Everything moment for New York’s Dems at the same time that about 20,000 more people voted in Lee Zeldin’s Suffolk County (population 1.4 million) than in Eric Adams’ Kings County (population 2.6 million).
All told, turnout was down by six figures from 2018 in both Brooklyn and Manhattan as many Democrats who weren’t going to vote for Zeldin’s Fear the City campaign that spoke directly, if demagogically, to voters’ concerns about crime simply stayed home even as Gov. Hochul belatedly brought in Barack Obama, Joe Biden and the Clintons to help get out votes for her campaign about nothing.
All this is worth revisiting now as the Democrats who control the Legislature and who set up this brutal cycle by trying to pass nakedly self-serving maps the state courts correctly struck down try to pin the blame for election day losses on Mayor Adams and state party chair Jay Jacobs.
Jacobs is irrelevant, except as a political symbol. New York’s party isn’t a party in the traditional sense but a valuable ballot line in a state that’s not always liberal but is overwhelmingly Democratic.
And Jacobs isn’t a party boss but an instrument of the governor, who I suspect is keeping him because she doesn’t want to give a win, following her own win, to the Working Families Party and Democratic Socialists-aligned Democrats gunning for him as those groups have taken on the traditional functions the Democratic Party has abandoned like communicating with voters and recruiting candidates.
Members of the WFP-DSA alphabet coalition put in real work knocking on doors and turning out voters while producing an agenda that’s compelling to true believers who can decide relatively low-turnout primaries but that hasn’t broken through statewide or in many swing districts.
As to Adams, the idea that the mayor who won that office just a year ago on a promise to make New York safer, and to do so fairly, and who campaigned for Hochul is somehow to blame for Zeldin surging on a public safety message of his own (with none of that pesky talk about fairness) is simply a joke that activist leaders are playing on their base or vice versa to convince themselves that their beliefs are broadly popular.
In fact, crime was the most urgent issue for voters overall and the second most urgent issue for Democrats just behind “protecting democracy.”
In an op-ed after the election about the need to win back “the voters we’re losing,” Adams wrote, correctly, that “We’re not here to tell people how to feel. We are here to show people they are being heard.”
Indeed, the challenge for Democrats in New York is to show that they are capable of building a system that’s fairer and safer not just in the long run, when we’re all dead, but now.
That means lawmakers finding a way to let judges consider dangerousness, like in every other state, so that they function as judges and not merely as clerks.
That means the state rolling out legal weed in a way that doesn’t end up screwing the people who are trying to play by the new rules that are supposed to create equity as lots of other people simply sell their own stuff, with no pesky fees or taxes, in the absence of almost any enforcement of those rules.
And that means the mayor delivering on his public safety promise, whatever happens in Albany. New York’s future belongs to whichever sort of Democrat convinces voters that they can actually get stuff done.
Siegel (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an editor at The City and a columnist for the Daily News.