National Lessons from New York's Red Wave, with Ross Barkan
Kathy Hochul limped to re-election but wants to push bold housing reform; Democrats struggle on crime and with Asian and Hispanic voters; Knicks owner James Dolan thinks he's invincible
There was no national “Red Wave” in last November’s elections, but there sure was one in New York. Republicans won a clean sweep on Long Island, even washing George Santos into Congress. They lost Asian and Hispanic support in New York City, turning swathes of Brooklyn red and Queens purple.
The biggest issue dogging Democrats was crime: Crime rates really were up sharply in New York City; the local media wouldn’t let people hear the end of it; Republicans blamed Democrats’ 2019 bail reforms; Democrats said these weren't the cause of the crime problem, but didn’t offer their own plausible theory of the case or communicate effectively to voters that they cared about the issue.
I invited progressive journalistto talk about what happened in New York, and what Republicans and Democrats can learn from it. Beyond crime, we also talked about Asian voters’ discontent with Democrats’ efforts to make selective public schools more diverse — that is to say, less Asian — which has also been an important theme in California politics.
And we talked about one ironic effect of Democrats’ shellacking in the suburbs — their loss of legislative seats on Long Island may actually make it easier for Democrats, who remain very much in the majority statewide, to impose zoning reforms that would upzone the suburbs and sprout apartment buildings near Long Island Rail Road stations up and down the island. That’s what Gov. Hochul hopes to do as part of her next state budget. If she succeeds, that would be a page she’d be taking from California Democrats and Gov. Gavin Newsom, who have been gradually imposing statewide reforms that undermine local control in the name of producing more housing.
And, most amusingly, we talked about ornery billionaire James Dolan, who owns the New York Knicks and Rangers, Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall. You may have seen on the news that he’s been using facial recognition technology to bar his enemies from his entertainment venues — with a definition of “enemies” so broad it included a New Jersey law firm associate trying to take her daughter’s Girl Scout troop to see the Rockettes. Like the crime wave, this is catnip for New York’s local TV news affiliates, and it may have some state legislators wondering why Dolan really needs a property tax break on his arena worth tens of millions of dollars a year.
I think this is a conversation that will be really interesting to you even if you don’t live in New York, and I hope you enjoy it.
Episode links and references
Click here for a transcript of this episode.
We discussed these recent pieces Ross published on his Substack: