That irritating New York state of mind

Maybe about 30 years or so ago, there was a pop art type painting/poster that some genius had come up with, that would understandably have amassed a lot more fans around here than elsewhere in the country. It was this very jaundiced rendering of the American landscape, with New York City occupying a position of foremost prominence (top billing to Manhattan, naturally), and what passes for the rest of the contiguous states pretty much lost in a haze of insignificance in the background. Somehow that image seemed apropos as the midterm elections approached. It really feels sometimes like the New York tempo just isn’t a proper fit with the package they call these United States.

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as New York panache. It readily explains why there’s a special level of gloating and loathing when those others come up against a New York team in football, baseball, what-have-you. Call it cultural elitism or whatever you will, but stylistically, there’s something about New Yorkers that makes them the folks others love to hate. Here’s wagering that the elections did nothing to alter that cultural dynamic.

With less than a week to go before the midterms, here we were with Obama and the Democrats, by just about everyone’s projections, set to lose control of the House of Representatives and the prospect of at best a tenuous hold on a Senate majority. And clearly, the fact that New York is anything but a microcosm of the American whole had a lot to do with why the Capitol Hill equation was getting ready to be that way configured.

In a bit of an electoral quirk, New Yorkers this time around were making choices for governor as well as their two senators. In none of these races was there expected to be anything but smooth sailing for the Democrats. Sen. Schumer was said to be so comfortable in his reelection bid, he could donate some $3 million from his campaign coffers to the party to assist other candidates. In the other Senate race, although Gov. Paterson had turned the selection process to name Hillary Clinton’s successor into something of a side show, Sen. Gillibrand seemed to quickly leave all of the camp stuff behind and settled into being a U.S. senator from New York. As for the gubernatorial stakes, they took on more of a burlesque quality, thanks to the Tea Party’s championing of Carl Paladino and his winning the Republican primary.

Paladino, whose reputation as a hothead and very gaffe-prone preceded him, was the closest New York would get to having any extraterrestrial types in the mix. There seemed never a doubt that Andrew Cuomo would handily prevail in this contest, more or less without breaking a sweat. So orderly all of this was, and faithful to the script. New York, one feels confident in saying, would not countenance a Sharron Angle or a Rand Paul, in Nevada and Kentucky respectively, and any others like them, who were part of this explosion of crackpots onto the terrain in 2010. Into the hands of these dizzy governing wannabes, the Tea Party crowd would have us believe, should the nation’s business be entrusted.

It would be too much to expect that Republicans, despite having earlier denounced the extremism (which is to say, nuttiness) of some of the Tea Partiers, would continue to maintain their distance once these assorted space cadets manipulated their way into serious political dialogue. The good old Republican obsession with power at all costs would never have a little principle get in the way of that.

Given the preamble, certainly there should be no mystery about what lies down the road in a retrofitted Washington with new Republican/Tea Party highlights. On the economy, the big issue that supposedly reshuffled those Capitol Hill numbers, one wouldn’t expect much of a change from what has been running ideology and (when given opportunity) standard practice heretofore: making nice with big business; regulation of industry is anathema; too much government concern for those most at risk is ill advised. (Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment benefits – for crying out loud, where dose it stop?)

Which probably means that those who, like The New York Times’ David Brooks, believe that a power split in Washington only portends further gridlock, may well be very much on target. If Republicans stuck so doggedly to a hard-line position of “No!” on practically everything laid on the table by Obama and company in the prior two years, even more chest-thumping in that vein would seem to be in the cards for the next two.

But if New Yorkers are to be slapped with an “elitist” tag for responding with a swift and sure “No dice” to the exercise in tomfoolery that others appear comfortable making of this serious business, it’s a tag that ought to be worn proudly. It’s reassuring to know that when the country — even sometimes that other allegedly hip portion of the coast out west – looks to be going bonkers, New York tends to hold steady. So they despise New York cool. So who cares? At a time like this when it’s raining crazies all over the place, there’s a need for celebrating anew the inspired snootiness of that aforementioned piece of art. “New York and the rest,” one might call it…appropriately so.

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