On Tuesday I went to vote and there were about 6 or 7 poll workers there and just me. “Are you a Republican one asked me?”. I said “Yes,we do exist in Manhattan”. It reminded me of the days of the early 196o’s when The New York Jets were the New York Titans and the stands were very much empty, someone said, “They ought to introduce the fans to the players”.
by Drew Belsky
When I applied to be a poll worker for this past Tuesday’s Republican primary in Manhattan, I never expected to be assigned to the East Village. After all, four years living in the area as an NYU student had soundly convinced me that Homo sapiens Republicanus had been purged from Greenwich Village — from the Cozy Soup ‘n’ Burger on Broadway to the filthy East River, from the statue of Gandhi at Union Square to the clothiers on Houston Street (that’s pronounced HOW-stin, for you out-of-towners).
So who on earth are these Republicans who live in Greenwich Village? The inky darkness of this past Tuesday morning found me powering across town to find out.
This would be my first embrace of civic duty, and I was raring to ensure a fair election. It would be hard enough to do, I thought — in the training course a couple of months prior, we were informed that only under the narrowest of circumstances — i.e., if the voter registration list demanded it — could we ask a voter for identification. At that point, the voter-to-be could refuse to show ID and proceed to vote anyway…but, granted, with an affidavit ballot, for which he’d need to attest that he really, really was eligible to vote. Seriously. Scout’s honor, fingers crossed.
So I marched into the East Village on 24 April with my jaw set, prepared to loudly challenge any suspicious character to attempt a fraudulent vote. (That’s a technical term: see, anyone’s allowed to “challenge” a shady wannabe voter. It results in a lot of aggravating paperwork for poll workers, and the challenged party gets to vote anyway. Will some vote-counter sort out the details later? Well, that’s none of my concern, or yours. Good system.)
And then I remembered that this was a Republican primary…in New York…and I came to my senses. There would be no voter-challenging…heck, there would be no voters. We didn’t even have a Spanish-speaking interpreter; even the poor Chinese interpreters, doubtless demanded by a district expecting high Asian turnout in the area, sat resignedly in one corner, their tent-sign drooping.
The first voter came in at 6:53 am. “You can tell he’s a Republican because he’s all dressed up,” my neighbor — a registered Democrat for decades and a retired dentist — whispered to me. At 7:21, we got so bored that the one other Republican besides me (a “proud Rockefeller Republican,” this one), who lived in the district, voted just to test our system. Voter Number Three, his wife, came in at 8:07.
Anyone tempted to suggest that turnout would increase around lunch hour does not yet understand how hopelessly blue Manhattan is. We were up to eight voters by around two in the afternoon. (We did have about as many Democrats wander in and attempt to vote — slurred one, “I wanna vote against all these people!”) So with the tumbleweed a-tumbling through the room and next to nothing to do, we brave dozen proceeded to shoot the breeze.
Having graduated from NYU, I tend to expect all liberals to be homogeneously foaming-at-the-mouth nutcases like my fellow college students were, and still are. And yes, one poll watcher was an OWS-loving loon, to the extent that she passed around copies of a paean to all things Occupy that she’d written for a local paper. When the conversation turned to 9/11 memories, she reported blithely determining that “I am not gonna let this ruin my day!” and fuming, “And Bush is at the helm!”
But to my surprise, Madame OWS made for a caricature against which the other Democrats in the room hastened to contrast themselves. The wide-eyed silence from one end of the room to the other at how important it was for 9/11 not to ruin this woman’s day, for example, forced a backpedaling rationalization that she was “in denial.” Then there was the affable and loquacious dentist, who stalwartly declared that “I always vote for the person,” not the party. He told me how disgusted he was with our government’s waste, spending, and corruption. “You sound like a great candidate for the Tea Party,” I replied, and he shrugged his shoulders in an if they’re right, they’re right sort of way.
Our local Rockefeller, for his part, boldly excoriated the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, whom he dubbed “Pinhead.” He’d made his fortune on Wall Street and then transformed into a public schoolteacher (and, apparently, a two-thirds-Democrat). “The Tea Party is not electable,” he said. “They’re not a political party,” I replied, “and I’ll tell you what: I love Pinhead.” He hated the NRA, too, whereupon my brain started puckering: I shared more ground with the Tea Party-sympathetic Democrat next to me than with the Republican across from me. The dentist came to my defense, thank goodness, by at least exalting Charlton Heston’s performance in Ben-Hur.
Hours passed. We made it to ten voters. One woman dismissed Obama as insincere and unprepared. I blinked, but she tempered my shock by revealing her ’08 support for Hillary. (Then another Democrat woman reignited it by crediting Palin as a good speaker.) The OWS-lover boasted about her campaign work with John Edwards, but everyone expressed nausea at the mention of Silky Pony’s name.
We were up to fourteen voters by seven o’clock. Mme. OWS rhapsodized about her time in Indonesia and recited from memory a poem about her divorce. (There was a lot of divorce in the room, in fact — only Rockefeller provided hard evidence of a spouse, with all the women pooh-poohing marriage as overrated.)
So what could I take away from the Republican primary in the Village? Well, the Wall Street Journal called the whole affair “sleepy,” but from my vantage point, I’d call it “apathetic.” Republicans here just don’t care. Maybe it’s because Rick Santorum took with him the only serious chance of a contrast among candidates (sorry, Paul fans), or maybe it’s because we right-wingers are too hopelessly outnumbered here in the Apple to bother about who our nominee is. But regardless of how you explain it, the apathy is downright depressing to a twenty-something political junkie digging his conservative toes into the world.
On the other hand, though, I think about the Democrat dentist, who not only admitted, but proudly declared that he wants a smaller government. I think about the one Democrat woman who lambasted Obama’s bitter offensive against Hillary in the ’08 primary and the other who dutifully pays her student loans on time and blasted widespread loan forgiveness as a lesson in irresponsibility for our youth.
As I said, nuthouse NYU has trained me to expect Occupy-caliber craziness from Democrats…and I get it in spades from liberals my own age. But maybe my new dentist friend is not the only lifelong Democrat in Manhattan — or in America — who sees the big problems with big government. If Mitt Romney (who, again, predictably cleaned house throughout New York on Tuesday) keeps the focus on downsizing Washington’s influence, I wonder if any of those dentists…I mean Democrats out there will see themselves as GOP-fans in November.
As for the twenty-somethings…well, it wasn’t too long ago that one of them told me social welfare programs are our way of paying the poor not to murder us. The less you know about those guys, the better.
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Tags: Drew Belsky