All eyes in the political world are on New York State now. For once, this primary really matters in both parties. The clash between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will highlight the fault lines in Democratic politics, the two powerful forces in New York politics. One is the movement politics that Bernie Sanders represents and the other is the establishment politics and performance of incumbency politics.
There are many environmental, peace, and good government activists and progressive reformers who have long known and admired Bernie Sanders. It is true that parts of upstate New York are very much like Vermont. Just two years ago, another Vermont native, Zephyr Teachout, came out of nowhere as a political unknown and won 30 upstate counties in the Democratic primary against Andrew Cuomo. So, Sanders starts with more money and more name recognition that Teachout did. Bernie is the leader of a movement and there is strong element of that in New York’s highly educated and activist Democratic party.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton not only has the wide support of the political establishment across the state, she earned the support and affection of many people and communities as the Senator from New York. This is her home field advantage and it is significant. Whatever one thinks of Hillary, she ran a masterful campaign for the Senate and her constituent service operation was much like that of our legendary other Senator Chuck Schumer. Being a a Senator from New York really provided the best showcase of the way Clinton wants to lead regarding bringing people together to work on local problems.
And, the other masterful aspect of her campaign and service was her approachability. When she ran for the Senate we remember how she visited all the small towns and large crowds turned out for her. In those days before selfies, she posed for old fashioned photos with just about anyone who wanted one. People don’t forget that and still have those photos. It is no coincidence that she won decisively in many upstate counties even in northern New York on the Vermont border.
I suspect that she will win this state and that her margin of victory will be very much because of that record.