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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 2-4 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."



Oh say can you see....
Monday evening, 6/25/18

First, among the small but loyal band of people who subscribe to the print edition of (An Appropriate Distance) From the Mayor’s Doorstep are – gasp, yes, a few Republicans.

And, because its subject is primarily art, I normally try to avoid discussing my admittedly Democratic preferences in it.

I feel that art and politics are like apples and oranges, irrelevant to one another.

Though I know that many great artists have used their art to make political statements, it is because of the quality of their art as art which has made those works survive. Whatever political situations they may have been concerned with, as time passes are forgotten, so irrelevant that it becomes necessary to explain them in museum labels.

That said, on this occasion, I am going to discuss my preference in the Democratic primaries being held today, June 26, in New York State’s 12th Congressional District. This is where I live, and it is a heavily blue district in a heavily blue state. Thus whoever wins the primary is more or less assured of election in November.

The current incumbent, up for re-election, is Carolyn Maloney, an attractive woman of AGE TK who has been in office since 1992. She has done a wonderful job. I can’t be bothered to look up the list of her many accomplishments, but they are impressive both in terms of legislation she has sponsored, and of votes she has cast in Congress.

Whenever I send an email to her, I get a letter back in which she tells how yet again she has done exactly what I wanted her to, and so much else besides.

Besides, she is a woman, and this is said to be the year of the woman, when our so long underprivileged sex stands a chance of being able to get a little of its own back.

(Whoops! I am afraid I am getting off the track from what I mainly want to talk about in this column, so I shall just say that this wonderful, wonderful woman who stars in Murder She Wrote is right on target when she seems to have said something about how this sexual harassment thing has been way, way overdone. Right on, Angela! Onward with the main topic of this posting.)

Maloney's chief opponent is Suraj Patel, an equally attractive man of 34 who has never held public office, but worked on the Barack Obama campaign and teaches ethics in the business school of New York University.

He comes from a wealthy family of immigrant Indian hotel owners based in Indiana. This power base has enabled him to mount a campaign with considerably more vigor than any of Maloney’s previous challengers, so her supporters have been sniping at him, suggesting that he was only a carpetbagger.

(Me, have no problem with that Indiana connection -- so far, anyway . Right now, I see it as like the situation with Lenox Hill, the hospital whose services I have recently begun to avail myself of. I am on Medicare and there are many old people like me in Manhattan on Medicare.

My first-cousin-once-removed Molly, who lives in Portland Oregon, is a doctor. She not long ago told me that it was tough for a doctor to make a buck off of Medicare patients. But Lenox Hill was some years ago merged with a suburban Long Island hospital.

The two together are known as Northwell, and I’m willing to bet that in the suburbs there are more younger patients than there are in Manhattan, so the money they bring in offsets the expenses for the Manhattan end of the group. But I digress).

Both Patel and Maloney have much the same liberal platforms. Both have been slinging mud at each other (for what seem to me pretty minor infractions of the rules of the political game).

Both of the city’s big, right-wing tabloids, The Daily News and The Post, have been blowing Patel’s infractions up to monster size, with huge scary headlines printed on real, live paper.

His charges against Maloney have been discussed in considerably smaller type by two liberal and I suspect only online publications, The Villager and Politico – along with her charges against him. We must be fair.

The New York Times has only reported, in a roundup on June 21, that the Democratic Party establishment is solidly behind Maloney, just as it is behind every other incumbent throughout the country.

No insurgent up to that date had managed to break through this solid line of blue.

Apparently the Democratic honchos fear that if any these “radicals” manage to come to the fore, this will scare moderate and independent voters into voting Republican.

Democratic voters in my age bracket whom I’ve talked with at various venues on the East Side of Manhattan say Patel needs more seasoning.

Never held public office before? They ask. Let him run for some office of lesser importance first.

Can America afford to wait?

This is where the Benjamin to whom this message is directed enters my narrative. How did I meet him? Who is he and why is the message so important?

Well, I met him yesterday near the exit from the excellent cafeteria at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I had just enjoyed a very lively lunch chatting with three out-of-towners who had been sitting close to me, an Aussie from Melbourne (sitting directly across from me) and a long-married pair of educators from Houston (sitting at the table on my left) .

As I was leaving, I stopped to write a note on the little table right by the exit from the cafeteria. Suddenly I was aware of this young man rushing up behind me and fumbling agitatedly for a little form which he then proceeded to fill in.

I asked him what it was. He showed me: it was a form that the Met was offering in case diners had some comment to make on the meal they’d just had. And then the words came tumbling out.

He was a victim of PTSD.

He had done service in the Middle East (I think he said Afghanistan). He had been in some sort of military installation in (I think) North Dakota for 9/11.

He thought the Met should be offering some sort of free little lemon slices to go with their (bottled) water, considering how much his meal had cost.

But most of all he was upset by how close together the tables in the cafeteria had been. He had barely been able to squeeze out between two of them. It was making him feel closed in, confined, and claustrophobic.

If the Met didn’t do something about it, he was going to send an email to Donald Trump.

And then he kept rambling on about his knowledge of military affairs, and his training in computer science, and I quickly got the impression that he was not only very intelligent but also extremely well educated.

Look, I said, gently but firmly. You obviously know far more than I do about the military and computer science. Now I am going to give you a little lesson in (or did I say information about?) civilian government.

Donald Trump is an unhappy man, who will only take what you give him and use it for his own purposes. You do not send the email to Donald Trump.

We have a two-party system in this country, so that if we do not like what is going on, then we can throw out the people doing it, and get in the opposite party (who was rambling now, I wonder? I’m not even sure these are the exact words I used but this was the general gist) .

We have three classes in this country, not just two, I went on (or again, something or other along these lines). Not just the upper class versus the lower class, class struggle like the Marxists had it.

We also have the middle class, which identifies first, with the upper class and/or then with the lower class, and acts as a fulcrum (I do remember the fulcrum, because I was holding up both hands and gently rocking them now up and now down in a seesaw-like gesture)..

Here he suddenly got quite quiet, and standing there, looked merely sort of bewildered.

But suppose both parties are EQUALLY corrupt, he said. Don’t you have to go out and form a third party?

(Obviously, this is not the first time I’ve heard this, but with the Patel/Maloney situation fresh in my mind, it rang with redoubled force).

And I ramble on to insist on the problems with three parties, citing the case with Great Britain. In the 19th century, everybody was either a little Liberal, or else a little Conservative.

The Labour Party was formed in 1900 because the Liberals weren't paying enough attention to the working classes [actually I didn't know that it was that long ago--this is a correction inserted after I got home & started typing this up. I was only aware of the fact that in the 20s and 30s, Ramsay McDonald, a Labourite, became PM but could only form a minority government, and so had to rely upon other parties to stay in power and this loused everything up]

Anyway, it took many years for the Labour Party to gain an outright majority in Parliament – not until 1945, which hamstrung both parties in the meantime.

How about four parties, he began to say, wildly. Or five? Or six? To which I responded with the patience born of ages, plus a growing amount of impatience…

That doesn't work, it's the Cabinet style they used on the Continent....Look at the mess this has created in France, Germany...Italy...(this was Government.101??? Professor Thomas P. Peardon at Barnard, marvelous old fart, this was also where I learned about Bagehot & ….Bakunin the anarchist….I did article on Bakunin for Focus, my first publication, campus mag….actually this was my term paper and …oh, come on, Halasz, get up & get on with it, you’ve got enough down on paper now so you can move on)…

He says, yes, slowly, as if coming to his senses since I know not how long…..the Cabinet style, I had that too…(evidently he too had Govt. 101 at wherever he studied – must have been an excellent school)…

And we don’t have ten years or whatever it was to fix it up, do we??? I now mutter rather impatiently (or words to that effect, as I stumble to my feet & start tottering off….he too somehow springs to his feet, and ushers me toward the exit of the cafeteria….

As we near the exit I think I turn around to him ….anyway, I know we shake hands, and I think maybe he even thanks me, and tells me his name is Benjamin; I tell him my mother's elder brother, my uncle was also a Benjamin….

I know there is also an older man standing there, hadn't noticed him before but he says his name is Andy, anyhow he also wants to thank me for speaking up…and we shake hands, too…God knows why, we live in a democracy, don’t we? We have a perfect right to free speech???

.......next these thoughts cross my mind, in a confused jumble, as I am writing: It’s not too late to vote….in the NY State Primaries anyway and I believe they’re open quite late…I

I’ve been waiting for the NY Times to land on my doorstep for quite some time now……as it’s now 12.15 pm, Election Day, I have to get along and VOTE…..I’m sure Patel will probably get slaughtered,,….especially if the NY Times gets off its tail and starts doing its homework on the subject of diversity in education before it comes out with such a bloody stupid editorial on diversity in the schools…Monday, yesterday that was…..

.....it will undoubtedly endorse Maloney and I’m sure there’s somebody else besides me who will therefore go and vote for her….maybe…my friends at that bridge game in the Gramercy (sp?) Park neighborhood who know more about politics than I do were doubtless right, he needs more experience and of the right kind than he’s got on his resume….

but I shall VOTE FOR PATEL and hope he gets enough votes to stay with it & stick around, him and all the other young people to whom this editorial is really addressed….starting with Benjamin, though I don’t know his email address so I can’t send a link to him…

They are the hope of the future and they mustn’t be allowed to go out and form a third party….they have got to hold their noses and stick to their principles and vote for the lesser of two evils, faute de mieux,….

that’s how democracy works, a two-party system works best, and it’s just like Winston Churchill says, democracy is a perfectly terrible form of government, the only problem is that every other kind is worse….

…. if there’s scandals later on, that can be investigated but in the meantime the official under investigation can hold down a Democratic seat -- in the Senate, for example, like Menendez over in Jersey…

Lord knows I hate hate HATE those vicious anti-Menendez commercials being beamed over to NYC from Jersey….and interrupting my favorite evening TV programs, Jeopardy & Wheel of Fortune….I get so mad watching Channel 7 between 7 & 8 in the evenings that I have to get up and hunt for another channel or even turn off the TV altogether…

,,,,.the .last time I looked, the courts had cleared Menendez of whatever it was he had been charged with, and we still observe the law of the land, I hope…..

My thoughts are really starting to run away with me now, but if possible I dislike even more that ever-so-nice, nice, nice young man who comes on the air in between the anti-Menendez ads and protests that if he were elected instead of Menendez he would do his best for New Jersey, and not take orders from anybody...

Sure, I say to myself, sullenly, maybe he will but in the meantime he will be occupying a Senate seat on the RIGHT-HAND side of the aisle and thereby helping Mitch McConnell get another who-knows-how-many years as Majority Senate Leader and do we really need that???

As far as I’m concerned, the DCCC should start rethinking its priorities and reconsidering its strategies….getting its act together, too, in other words….we need more bright, fresh young men entering politics on the LEFT-HAND side of the aisle….

Many, many more who are thinking about their futures and wondering whether the future lies on the right or left-hand side of the road ahead…

…..the Dems have already got the ladies sewed up, or so they think. Lord knows at the moment they certainly have me…but they should bear in mind that women are naturally conservative (maybe because they have children to protect) and even back in the 1920s, when they first got the vote, after so many of them had marched as suffragettes to get that vote ---who did they help elect to the presidency?

Would you believe Calvin Coolidge – the Republican candidate? Keep cool with Cal, I think maybe how the campaign slogan went.

To the best of my recollection, and I’m far too het up at this moment to stop and look up the statistics, but to the best of my recollection I believe that a majority of women voters kept on voting for Republican candidates for President right up to the late 60s or early 70s.

And again, somebody should double-check my statistics but I believe something like 49 percent of women voters in 2016 voted for Trump.

Maybe, as my friend Dorothy says, it was just because they just didn’t like Hillary. And of course, in every case there would have been many, many other contributing factors—but my friend Anne called it right.

Right from the start she said that Trump would win because the country just wouldn’t stand for a woman right after an African American.

Can’t remember at the moment what she said about the prospects for 2020, and anyway, I’m getting awfully, awfully sleepy – .....[pause here, to indicate that that at this point, I suddenly got up from the computer, started pottering around the apartment, fell down on the sofa and instantly fell asleep] and as it’s now 2:05 pm on Tuesday, Election Day, and I want to post this report before I get dressed and eat breakfast and do all the other things I normally do before I get out of the house and off to face the day’s adventures….

The first thing I plan to do, of course, is VOTE but as of this particular moment, I honestly don’t know when, where or indeed If I will be able to vote…..I have just looked at the NY Times (print edition, of course).

All along I have been eagerly waiting to see who they would recommend for the 12th Congressional District. And normally they print their recommendations on the editorial page on the day of the election. But today –ye gods, this is the weirdest thing!

Not only are there no recommendations, but there is absolutely no reference to the 12th Congressional District at all….something must have gone really wildly wrong with their computer system??

I have no idea, such technical boo-boos are way beyond my understanding, so I will just do my best to put this posting online and hope that technology doesn’t get in my way again….

Cheers, everybody...it's now 4 pm and I really must rush off in hopes meeting my friend Mary Jo for a drink at a very fancy hotel around fiveish. Well, maybe I will suggest that we go around the corner to a coffee shop or something so I can get some breakfast...

[PS According to the official election results, as posted at the New York Times website on June 27, 2018, more votes were cast in the 12th Congressional District than in any other other primary held in the state.: 41, 208 -- as opposed to only 27, 658 votes cast in the 14th district, where Victoria Ocasio-Cortez, the winner, actually got more than a thousand votes less than Patel, despite the fact that she had much more support from trad lefty supporters like MoveOn.org -- to which I also belong, but sometimes get rather irritated by. Maloney won, of course. She got 24,223 votes, but this was only 58.8 % of the total, since Patel got 16,995 votes, or 41.2%, with 99 % of the votes counted (563 of 569 precincts reporting). Nothing like a nice competitive race to get voters to the polls! I for one will be very interested to hear what Patel does next.]
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