Reports of the death of the Republican Party (and it should be noted that even yours truly speculated about terminal illness) might well be exaggerated. We certainly know that New York City never got that memo.
Less than a week after the president’s re-election (with talk of ethnic minorities empowering Democrats to a permanent majority ringing in everyone’s ears), New York (where whites themselves have been a minority since 1990) saw Adolfo Carrion – former Bronx Borough President and former Obama Administration official – declare himself a former Democrat, in order to run for Mayor of New York as the Republican nominee (New York Daily News). Carrion followed that up with a call for taxpayer funds for campaigns (a Big Apple staple since Ed Koch) to be junked (New York Post – just under the speculation about a Cuomo appointee being lobbied to run for Mayor as a Republican).
Well, for starters, the Republican nominee has been elected Mayor of New York each of the last five elections (1993, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009). Moreover, one does not have to be a registered Republican to run on the Republican line (although one cannot be a Democrat). Mayor Bloomberg himself was “unaffiliated” when he won the Republican nomination in 2009 (he was a Republican in 2001 and 2005).
However, it does say something that a politician in New York – in a year where the Democrats already have five candidates vying for their nomination and none of them seem a prohibitive favorite – has decided his candidacy would be helped with the (R) next to his name. The Cuomo appointee (Joe Lhota), meanwhile, has said nothing about his plans, but it should be noted that the idea of him running as a Democrat is not even considered. This begs the question: why is the Republican nomination considered so important in New York City? The answers pose some hope for the national party going forward.
First off, Democrats in New York have for years been firmly placed on the left, where the president only recently placed the party nationally. If New Yorkers are any indication, hard-left Democrats are going to put themselves in trouble faster than they realize.
Secondly, while “Hispanics” (I used the quotes because I consider the moniker far, far too broad) have only recently been a major force in national elections, they’ve been a critical part of the New York political scene since the 1960s, if not earlier. They are by and large more prosperous than their national counterparts…and as such more likely to vote Republican for Mayor (Bloomberg carried Hispanics narrowly in 2001, and won 43% in 2009). This comes with a caveat – their is a much heavier Puerto Rican presence in NYC than in just about any part of the country outside Florida – but it does reveal that voters with Latin American ancestry are not necessarily immune to Republican messages or candidates.
Finally, there is the matter of how the Republicans (weak as they are in the city) appeal to the electorate in front of them. To the extent that consistency can be found between the two GOP-backed mayors (Giuliani and Bloomberg), it’s been on how they presented their case to the voters: safer streets, more economic growth, and reforms of government services to make them more efficient and less costly (Bloomberg focused particularly on education). On social issues, both men reflected the electorate (to the point where gays and lesbian narrowly voted for Bloomberg in 2009). I say that not to slam social conservatives. Not every electorate is New York City, and thousands of socially conservative Republican officials reflect their constituents quite well. I am saying that political success on these matters is largely determined by the culture of the electorate well before Election Day.
As it is, New York City is hardly recognizable from what it was in 1993 (when Giuliani first won). It is considered to be cleaner, safer, and largely better-run. As such, despite an allergic reaction to Republican nominees at the federal or state level, New Yorkers have been quite comfortable hearing – and taking – the GOP’s advice on who should run the city, and they may very well take the party’s advice again next November…
…and like Frank’s song says, if the Republican Party can make it there, they’ll make it anywhere.