Brooklyn—Over the past week I’ve traveled the length of New York state, from Albany to Buffalo, and Poughkeepsie to Park Slope, and came away with two certainties: Donald Trump is going to win his home state in a walk, while the winner in the Democratic primary really depends on which New York shows up at the polls.
As the world capital of capital, New York has plenty of places where the 2008 crash was barely a wobble. Chappaqua, where the median price of a house is over $1 million—the Clintons’ place on Old House Lane, purchased for $1.7 million in 1999, is a little larger than the local average—is one, but there are oases of comfort many miles from the familiar canyons of Manhattan or the dunes of Eastern Long Island. There are also the up-and-coming neighborhoods—not just the obvious hipster havens like Williamsburg or Bedford-Stuyvesant or Beacon in the Hudson valley, but Allentown and Elmwood Village in Buffalo, or Saratoga Springs—basically any place capable of supporting a micro-brewery.
Then there are the vast expanses of the state where times got hard and stayed that way. Where you drive through mile after mile of toothless blocks searching in vain for an ATM or a bodega, let alone a decent supermarket or a bank that might actually make mortgage loans. Towns that still haven’t replaced the roads and bridges wiped out by Irene five years ago. Where the school districts barely scrape by—or don’t, despite cutting music lessons, and gym class, and field trips, and have to consolidate with the next town. Places where you can end up driving 50 miles to get a broken leg set or a cut sewn up.
When Donald Trump speaks tonight in Buffalo he’ll be in the center of the city’s shiny new Canal-side development, across the street from a statue of Sabres hockey great Tim Horton. But if you walk 15 minutes past the empty storefronts up Main Street to the Tim Horton’s donut shop, the management enforces a 20-minute time limit to keep drug dealers and the local unemployed from settling in for the day.
Hard times make people suspicious, said Christina Greer, who teaches political science at Fordham and is the author of Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration and the Pursuit of the American Dream. “African-American voters are some of the most strategic voters out there,” she says. And in many cases, she added, they have decided “it’s more important to vote to protect their interests than to vote to advance their interests.”
That isn’t the only reason Greer gives for Hillary Clinton’s edge over Bernie Sanders among African Americans. “There’s also a generational divide we haven’t seen before. Older voters say to Sanders, ‘If you’re such a champion of civil rights, why haven’t we heard about you?’ With the Clintons, you know exactly what you’re getting.”