Saturday, February 27, 2010

Doug Hoffman’s New York and David Paterson’s

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 3/1/10

A Wall Street Journal essay this weekend calls Albany’s possibly the most corrupt legislature on earth. That would include Poland’s, Russia’s, Belarus’s, Brazil’s, Argentina’s, Mymar’s and Philadelphia’s. But Doug Hoffman’s New York is a vastly different place than David Paterson’s or Andrew Cuomo’s.

When you get to Doug Hoffman country everything changes. All the bags and baggage of Europeanized New York left behind from the 19th and 20th centuries – the corruption of Albany, the industrial revolution, patronage, class warfare, family connection; the pseudo-monarchist, personality cultism like that which accompanies Cuomo (married to a Kennedy, son of a charismatic governor – wouldn’t have a prayer otherwise) – suddenly disappears. It leaves entrails randomly strewn across the desolate Canadian border but it stops when you get past Malone.

And there the future opens. Not at the bizarre and oppressive wind farms beyond Moira, which reminded my son of the alien tripods in Stephen Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, but a little further on in the rhythmic clip clop, clip clop, of Amish horse buggies.

History turned on the NY 23 race last year when Conservative Party’s Doug Hoffman brought a third party challenge to Dierdre Scozzafava. Hopefully there are four or five books or graduate theses in works that chronicle that critical moment because everything since – Virginia, Scott Brown, Tea Parties, Sarah Palin and Rick Perry’s critical primary just ahead in Texas – hinges on that moment.

American politics has three aspects now – traditional left, traditional right and populist conservative - whereas before NY 23 it had only two. Roosevelt Democrats, relevant when the industrial cities of eastern New York were flourishing and full of European immigrants a hundred years ago, are less and less finding purpose, function or useful adaption in a new century of farmers and small businesses.

Jim Rogers, the legendary commodities guru, has all year been telling Bloomberg’s Bernard Lo and anyone else who would listen to take up farming. Trade in the Maserati for a John Deere, because the future of wealth is in agriculture.

Which is good for Doug Hoffman’s New York because when you get to where you first start to hear the canter of Amish horses it is worth noting that from there on continuing west, once you get around Chicago, America is a farm for as far as the land is flat, about 2,000 miles.

NY 23 is an appropriate place for new politics to start in the new century. Like California, like America, NY is a state divided between red and blue and those cultural divisions now have specific regional contours. From Potsdam and Canton west, NY feels more like the Midwestern agricultural states in the Lakes region, while the eastern region seems a broken, industrial residue of New York City in the previous century.

It has occurred to the productive inland farmers in California’s rich valleys that they are being asked to support the deeply in debt beautiful people in LA and San Francisco. Thus, it is not actually the feds that are bailing out the cities, but the productive inland farm folk. They are calling for a Constitutional Convention to address this and other issues. The NY Times reports that some valley farmers are also calling for regional autonomy. CA is actually two states with distinctively different cultures they say. Inland CA should be its own state. So far as I know, it has not been proposed in New York by public figures, but it is an idea whose time is arriving in CA. If successful in this very large sister state, big New York is a natural candidate as well.

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