Some of us are understandably baffled. Let’s cut through it. This is what Obamacare says at its core: Insurance companies, you will end some of your most appalling practices and cruelties, the stuff that is banned everywhere else on Earth and should have been banned in America four decades ago. In exchange, millions of customers will be driven to you, some of them subsidized by the government. And it will be very good for you.
That’s the biggest part of it. It isn’t the Second Holocaust that is described to me every single day when I open my email box or tune to the wrong AM radio station. Here are actual phrases included in just today’s emails: “The Dictator-in-Chief,” “Hundreds Of Millions Of People Are Still Going To Lose Their Health Care Plans,” “Obama Assaulting Fabric of Our Nation….”
1. Wow. Low turnout. Who could have seen it coming?
2. Don’t underestimate voters. They are so, so much smarter than they used to be. Generations have grown up being disappointed when the toy in the cereal box didn’t look like it did on television. They see right through all the plastic postcards with the witty catch lines. If you don’t get your head around this, you don’t get your head around why Governor Christie may be the next President.
From the first moment back in February when Tom Suozzi said he’d be running for Nassau County Executive again, the most common question I’ve been asked is this: Why is he doing this? The debt, the taxes, the coliseum, the whatever, we know, we know. A hundred different people could adequately complain about what. But why? Why should Tom Suozzi be the county executive again?
And his campaign never answered that question to the satisfaction of a lot of voters.
Have you ever contributed $5,000 to a political campaign? How about $10,000? Are people and partnerships and committees and businesses who make contributions like that, bless them, representative of the typical resident of this county? Are their priorities the same? Their motivations? Their expectations?
As of 11 days before Election Day, the campaign committees of County Executive Ed Mangano and former County Executive Tom Suozzi had raised $10.718 million during this campaign cycle, and 50.8 percent of it, just over half, was raised in contributions of $5,000 or more. $3.25 million of it came from contributions of $10,000 or more. Those 187 checks of $10K or more averaged $17,407.
Harrison defeated Cleveland, and Mr. Cornell gave Mr. Jennings a wheelbarrow ride around the village of Hempstead, Cornell decked out in bandanas and Jennings covered in flags. They followed a decorated wagon that carried a small orchestra. McKinley beat Bryan, and Dr. Burns paid off his bet by treating Mr. Hay to a wheelbarrow ride up Prospect and Sea Cliff Avenues, and then hosting a supper for scores of invited guests at the Colony Hotel on Glen Cove Avenue. The “freak election bet”—particularly the public, good-natured wheelbarrow ride down the main street—was ingrained in local political culture for generations. “At the end of the wheelbarrow ride,” a November 1920 advertisement suggested to those settling up election bets near Syosset, “stop in and refresh yourself with Reid’s Ice Cream.”
This tradition of prominent citizens and political leaders showing that they were good sports lasted longer in mostly-rural Suffolk County than in Nassau, where Republican domination was more complete and the traffic heavier. A 1932 bet between leaders of the Italian-American Association resulted in a mile-long barrow ride down Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont for the Roosevelt backer, with a band leading the procession, but I imagine it caused some grousing among pedestrians and drivers.
Days before the September primary, a coalition of Rochester media organizations published an opinion poll conducted by Siena College’s Siena Research Institute on that city’s Democratic mayoral primary. The Siena poll had the incumbent mayor leading the challenger, 63 to 27 percent. The challenger won with 58 percent.
The theoretical margin of error in the Rochester poll was plus or minus 4.4 percent, which means that if, say, 50.0 percent give a particular answer to a question, the “real” result is reliably somewhere between 45.6 and 54.4 percent. Almost all published polling is designed to have a “confidence level” of 95 percent, which means that if you conducted the same survey over and over among randomly selected pools of people, one time out of 20 the results will fall outside of the expected margin of error. With piles of polls published every week during the Presidential election, it’s easy to spot these “outlier” poll results. When you have only one or two newspaper polls, like the one recently published by Newsday and Siena on the Nassau County races, you don’t know what you’re getting.
As we sleep, midnight flying squads from political campaigns swoop down on closed gas stations, unrented buildings and unguarded roadside fencing and cover the area with their ugly, unregulated, sometimes dangerous signage. If you were a small business owner and covered the turnpike with 4-foot-long “Eat at Joe’s” signs, there would be code enforcement officers covering your shop like ants on a dropped cheese puff. But our local political organizations exempt themselves from rules of courtesy, neighborliness and municipal regulation. And reality.
At a local corner adorned with 24 signs, one stands out, larger than all the others. I have now seen the same sign in zip code after zip code. It promotes the candidacy of County Executive Ed Mangano by proclaiming, “He Cut Taxes!!”
Bombers, fighters, lots of C-119 “Flying Boxcars” and other military aircraft were still rumbling along Mitchel Field’s long runways when the first four-year college was established there.
In 1957, Mitchel College was created by Long Island University in partnership with the Air Force, the first resident college on a military base. It offered bachelor’s and associate’s degrees to active and retired military personnel, reservists, civilian defense workers and their dependents in an accelerated night program (five semesters a year). Several years after the base was formally closed, there were still 1,200 people taking classes in converted barracks, working toward degrees in liberal arts, business, engineering and science. In 1964, Mitchel College was stripped of its degree-granting status when state investigators decided the library was too small and it had too many part-time faculty members. It closed completely in 1965 when LIU decided not to make the expensive needed upgrades.
Nearly 40 years ago, County Executive Ralph Caso declared 1974 as the “Year of Mitchel Field.” His list had seven projects and a $200-million price tag. It included a federal office building, a pet project of Congressman John Wydler for more than a decade. That year, the county actually leased 52 acres for light industrial development that was supposed to employ 6,000 people, but nothing happened and the county sued the developer. Bicentennial Hall was going to be very popular, with its planetarium and sports hall of fame. Within a year, Hempstead Presiding Supervisor Alfonse D’Amato said, “Maybe we’ll have it ready for the Tricentennial.”
To get better public officials, we need better candidates. To get better candidates, we need to walk right up to them and tell them to clean up their acts.
Let’s start with the smallest thing there is in a political campaign. Literally.
Unless you know to look for it, you may not know about union labels on printed political materials, including brochures, signs and buttons. It’s a small graphic (often called a “bug”) that indicates that the material was printed by a “union shop,” meaning a printing operation that upholds certain labor standards. For example, political campaigns frequently require last-minute printing and a union bug means that the people who were running the machines at 2 a.m. got paid overtime. For Democratic candidates, especially those claiming to be supportive of working families, some voters simply expect a bug to be present on any “big ticket” mailers.
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Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org