New York Plays Its Role

New York gave its expected stamp of approval to two of the worst presidential candidates ever on Tuesday, with both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton scoring big and much-needed wins in the primaries of their home state. Both regained their front-runner status after some embarrassing losses to pesky rivals in the hinterlands, but we hold out hope the Empire State is no longer able to deliver either an inevitable nomination.
Trump at long last broke into majority territory with a convincing 61 percent of the statewide vote, and his pesky rival finished third with a paltry 15 percent, which will keep a pointless third candidate in the race to continue splitting the anti-Trump vote in some upcoming friendly northeastern states, and he won 88 of the available 95 delegates to further pad his lead, so there’s no denying he had another good night. He’s still off the pace to win the needed number of delegates for a first-ballot nomination, though, and thus far his pesky rival has been far better at the complicated and by-now-unfamiliar-to-anyone game of winning on a second or third ballot. New York’s Republican primary electorate is also atypical of the party’s at large, we are happy to say, and that pesky rival should fare better as the race moves out of the northeast.
Trump’s pesky rival is Sen. Ted Cruz, an unabashed Christian and red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalist and strict constitutionalist and described-by-everyone-as-conservative and unmistakeable Texan, so he never did stand a chance up there against a self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul such as Trump, who is someone that the subway riders seem to want to be. New York’s invaluable contributions to conservatism runs from Alexander Hamilton through William F. Buckley to those fine folks at the Manhattan Institute, but even in New York City there are only so many eggheads, and we have to admit that the remaining 61 percent of the state’s Republicans are pretty much Archie Bunker, that left-wing caricature of a stereotypically bigoted and sexist and uninformed conservative from the ’70s left-wing sit-com “All in the Family.” As Trump is pretty much the self-described billionaire real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-professional-wrestling-and-reality-show mogul version of Bunker, we can easily understand the results.
The Democratic outcome was even more easily understandable, and almost as unlikely to settle matters. The Democrats in New York, who will certainly deliver the state’s still sizable share of electoral votes to the Democrats no matter what combination of nominees this crazy race turns up, are well contented with the status quo that former First Lady and carpet-bagging-homestate Senator and Secretary of State and long-presumed First Woman President Clinton represents. They own the state’s politics, its still outsized share of political power in the country at large, the lucrative arrangement with those evil Wall Street folks that her pesky rival is always railing against is largely satisfactory to the locals, the rich retain their power and the poor retain their benefits, and those Archie Bunkers in the middle are vastly out-numbered and voting in an increasingly insignificant Republican primary, so even a self-described socialist such as pesky rival self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander isn’t likely to fare well there. We sense a certain dissatisfaction with the status quo among Democrats elsewhere, though, and there are those pesky coughing fits that the seemingly tired front-runner has been enduring as well as a pesky ongoing Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry that cannot end well, and nothing is certain in this crazy year.
We’ve always enjoyed our occasional visits to New York, with several trips to the City and a leisurely hitchhiking trek through its upstate cities and towns and hamlets, and we can’t deny its many contributions to the enrichment and degradation of American culture, but we’re glad the rest of the country also has a say.

— Bud Norman

The View from Back East

The fortune cookie that accompanied our meal at a P.F. Chang’s franchise somewhere in the endless sprawl of the Philadelphia metropolitan area told us that “A visit to a strange place will bring you renewed perspective.” The faux-Chinese proverb provided by the faux-Chinese restaurant elicited a slight chuckle, given that the joint was eerily identical to the P.F. Chang’s franchise on the far east side of Wichita, right down to the overly-friendly waiter and the over-priced appetizers, but in truth our rare travel beyond the prairie has offered a few fresh insights.
Modern technology and corporate capitalism have done much to obliterate the regional differences that have long strained the union of the states, but there’s still no mistaking that we’re not in Kansas anymore. The television shows and the offerings at the local movie theaters are the same as back home, and although the local news anchors and anchorettes are different they all have the same handsome and pretty and self-serious look about them and the same bright graphics over their shoulders and the same tales of crime and tax increases to report. We’ve passed countless malls with the same impermanent architecture and the same stores as that we pass by on our drives back home, and although the convenience store market is dominated by something called Wawa rather than the QuikTrip stores that dominate the prairie they have the same gargantuan sodas and high-calorie fast foods and sterile atmosphere. There’s a lot more of everything, though, and occasional other reminders half a continent continues to make a difference in the daily life of an American.
These differences are especially apparent in the quadrennial election results, when the states in the northeast light up in blue and the prairie states turn red, and our perusal of the local press provides plenty of other reminder that folks are far more liberal in this part of the country. The Philadelphia Inquirer is obliged to cover the politics of not only Pennsylvania but also Delaware and New Jersey and the rest of the itty-bitty states that are crammed together around here, and little of it makes sense to someone more accustomed to Kansas politics. Gun-grabbing, Muslim-loving, Obama-embracing Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is considered a Republican by the prevailing local standards, and his commonsensical insistence on balanced budgets and non-punitive tax rates even makes him a relatively radical right-winger in the view of the east coast press, and it is amusing to read the speculation that he might win over enough honest-to-God Republicans in the heartland to win his party’s nomination for president. Such crazy talk is unaccountable to the Kansas kind of Republican, but after just a few days back east it begins to make some sort of sense.
The first thing a denizen of the prairie notices after arriving at Philadelphia’s intimidatingly immense airport is the city’s downright claustrophobic population, which can’t help but inculcate the collectivist mindset that is at the root of liberalism. The vast space of the prairie provides room for the rugged individualism that underlies the conservative philosophy, but getting so many millions of people to live together in such a constrained area apparently requires a degree of regulation that only liberals are willing to contemplate. Class differences are also more conspicuous and no doubt more infuriating here, where the poverty is more glaringly oppressive and the wealth more gleamingly opulent, so the enforced egalitarianism of the liberal program has an understandable appeal. Even as it becomes more apparent that it will lead to everyone but the politically connected becoming equally poor and stupid, we expect that a good many northeasterners will be satisfied with the result.
Still, there’s much to be said for this strange part of the country. Prairie folk will also notice that there’s an immense amount of history here, with elegant homes and businesses that were already old when J.R. Meade established the mud-walled trading post that was the very first edifice of what would become Wichita, Kansas, and we can’t help enjoying that irony that everything in our far more old-fashioned hometown is relatively new compared to what we find in this more up-to-date metropolis. The Philly cheese steak sandwiches at a distinctively local little eatery called Romano’s cannot be duplicated elsewhere, even if no one in this seems to know how to cook a proper chicken fried steak, and there are other only-in-Philadelphia touches that have somehow survived the relentless homogenization of modern America. Most of the folks we’ve encountered have been friendly enough, as well, and the modern technology allowed us to watch the Wichita State University Wheatshockers basketball squad extend their thus-far unbeaten season on the internet, even in a place where most people would likely wonder what the hell a Wheatshocker is.
With a return to federalism and a bit of tolerance by both city and country folk, there’s a chance the union might somehow survive that red and blue electoral map.

— Bud Norman