A new NBC poll has found that threats to democracy is now the biggest concern among Americans, overtaking concerns about the cost of living and jobs and the economy. What’s the one thing that Americans can do when they feel their democracy is in danger? Vote! Yet if today’s primary in New York is any indication, many Americans are still taking their right, and yes, privilege to vote, for granted.
Sunday’s article in the New York Times will do nothing to dispel the notion that New Yorkers may talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, they are just as ambivalent about voting as those in other parts of the country. And nowhere in New York is the spotlight shining brighter than in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where high profile Democrats are battling it out for voters. But there’s a big problem. In the last dog days of summer, many of those voters are not sweating it out in the city, but enjoying the beaches and mountains in the Hamptons and the Berkshires. One woman quoted in the Times said: “I’m not coming in to vote. That’s the problem: Nobody here is going to come in just to vote. It’s insane. What’s this voting in August?”
Talk about entitled! When it’s too much of a burden to shake the sand from your sandals and drive into the city to cast your vote, then don’t sit around and worry about threats to our democracy. New York is a solid blue state and chances are this woman, if she’s a Democrat, will be fine no matter which candidate wins and goes on to face a Republican in November. But exercising the right to vote is like exercise in general. When you opt out, those memory muscles weaken and next time the motivation to get moving and vote may be gone.
The strange thing is that this primary is filled with drama. Because of redistricting, we have two Congressional veterans – Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler – facing off in a newly reconfigured district. Maloney, 76, has represented her Upper East Side district for more than three decades, while Nadler, 75, has been elected to his Upper West Side district for just as long. And these two Democrats head up powerful committees in Congress. Nadler is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, while Maloney chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Challenging the two incumbents is newcomer Suraj Patel. Put aside that this redistricting should never have happened, New York stands to lose an important power in the House.
Nadler made the decision to challenge Maloney in the 12th district after his Upper West Side base was moved there by the redistricting. That opened a new seat and a scramble by a diverse group of candidates to nab it. Mondaire Jones, who currently represents northwestern Westchester Country and all of Rockland County in Congress, opted not to run in that district when Sean Patrick Maloney, the powerful chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, shifted to run in Mondaire’s reconstituted 17th district. Now in the newly created district, Mondaire is running against Daniel Goldman, the former federal prosecutor who served as counsel to House Democrats in Trump’s first impeachment inquiry, former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou and New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera. Again, drama! Who wouldn’t want to make their voice heard in such a complicated face-off?
Obviously those still soaking up the sun and hiking in the mountains may remain unmoved. This primary is the run-up to the midterms this November where so much more is at stake. Will enthusiasm for voting return by then? Will those who can’t be in New York request a mail-in ballot? Let’s hope so or our democracy is truly in trouble.
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