[visiting my congressman]

This morning I went to Representative Michael McMahon’s Brooklyn office to present my support for health care reform in person. I met a young, friendly staffer who’s on the same side as me, but made it clear to me that McMahon sees himself in a tough spot on this issue.

McMahon is the Representative for NY-13, a district that until the last election was held by Republican Vito Fossella. Fossella was caught in a scandal and declined to run for reelection. Then the favored Republican candidate, Francis Powers, died of a heart attack. In the end, McMahon took 61 percent of the vote in a district Obama lost.
According to the staffer I met, the people coming to McMahon’s office to talk to him on health care have been about 80 percent against, and this has got McMahon worried. He also said that they’d decided not to hold any town halls because of concerns that they would be unproductive shouting matches. I reminded the staffer that shouters are not the same thing as polls or surveys, and that the last time we had a major poll, back in November, we elected McMahon on a Democratic platform that included health care reform.
But I think there are two important points here. The first is that a Democratic Congressional Representative is saying that his position on health care is being swayed by the overwhelming number of people coming into his office to speak against health care reform. We need to get out there and talk to our Reps to make sure they do the right thing!
The second point, which I hope our Representatives will grasp, is that the shouters and doubters on health care were never going to vote for them in the first place. Does McMahon truly believe that if he caves on health care, these nuts will come around to the Democratic side in 2010?
If health care reform passes, the Democrats will look strong. They’ll have a record of achievement. And they’ll get shouted at by loonies during the next election cycle. If health care reform doesn’t pass, the Democrats will look weak. They’ll come into the next election cycle facing accusations of incompetence. And they’ll still get shouted at by loonies.
I hope the Democrats in Congress realize that voting down health care reform is not a winning proposition.

[vito’s coming back]

I live in a peculiar pocket of New York City, politically speaking. New York’s 13th Congressional District is the only one in the city that has a Republican Representative, disgraced two-family man Vito Fossella.

Vito dropped a reelection bid when it came out that he’d been driving drunk in Virginia while visiting his mistress and their child. Now, though, he wants to come back into the race — as a Conservative, opposing not just Democrat Mike McMahon, a long-serving city council member representing Staten Island, but also the Republican candidate, Bob Straniere, a former state assemblyman.

Good luck to Vito! I hope he enjoys splitting the Republican vote while McMahon coasts to victory!

[scandal in the 13th]

For those who have somehow missed it (like me, until today), Vito Fossella, my beloved Republican Representative, has been caught in a bit of a scandal: he got busted for a DWI in Virginia, where he was driving to the home of his mistress with whom he has a three-year-old daughter.


It looks like he may run anyway, but jeez! This seems like the moment to take back the 13th District.

[are suburbs the new bohemia?]

The New York Times reported recently on the decline of gay enclaves. Places like San Francisco’s Castro District, New York’s West Village, West Hollywood and Key West are gentrifying. High real estate prices and a changing ethos are transforming these neighborhoods from bastions of wild nightlife to comfortable places to raise kids, and there is attendant hand-wringing over the disappearance of a vibrant culture, along with soul-searching about whether there’s even a reason for gay neighborhoods anymore.

There is a long discussion to be had about the mainstreaming of homosexuality in America, the consequent coming out of a more diverse group of gay men and women, and the ongoing debate over gay assimilationism. But I’d rather talk about hipsters and real estate.

To understand what’s happening to America’s gay neighborhoods, it helps to look at how they were formed. America’s gay community more or less began with the Stonewall riots and their aftermath. Though usually not presented as such, these events were part of the larger 1960s embrace of counterculture and individual freedoms. It’s no accident that both hippies and gays were into free love, drugs, leftist politics and bikers (though the fascination with bikers remains something of a mystery). Like the hippies, the founders of America’s gay communities tended to be white middle-class baby boomers, and they colonized many of the same neighborhoods (the Castro is just blocks from Haight-Ashbury).

The changes in America’s gay enclaves mirror the changes in formerly bohemian neighborhoods that are not specifically associated with gay life: it’s not just the Castro and Greenwich Village that have seen skyrocketing housing prices, but also the East Village, SoHo, the Mission District, SoMa, and pretty much every other patch of once-hip ground in America’s major cities. For the first time in memory, there is no bohemian frontier in Manhattan.

This connects with another recent Times story, this one noting the discovery by bohemian types of Staten Island’s North Shore. I’ve long believed that the best way to tell what’s going to be incredibly fashionable in three to five years is to look for whatever is most egregiously unhip now (which means, among other things, that you should be preparing to grow your hair out and unmothball your flannels) , and it’s hard to think of anything less cool than the suburbs.

But will hipsters who are priced out of the city really start moving to little houses in Jersey and Staten Island? Hard to say at this point, though I will raise the possibility that a generation raised on Facebook and Craigslist may feel less compelled to form hipster neighborhoods than their forbears. What made the suburbs so awful was isolation, and the Internet provides a way to overcome that isolation without spending $1300 a month to live with rats and roaches. And there is much ironic fun to be had in a lifestyle that embraces garden gnomes.

I now live in a perfectly nice neighborhood that has yet to be discovered by hipsters. Down in Bay Ridge, we have trees, houses, lower rents and safer streets than in Bushwick, and I can still get on the subway and go to Manhattan. Am I part of a vanguard, or just out in left field? Time will tell.

[the fighting 13th]

I posted recently about the upcoming Congressional race in my district, NY-13, and got a comment from the author of NY13 Blog, who gave me a nice shout-out.

I’ll be keeping my eye on this blog as we move closer to campaign season. Oh, and here’s the comment, in case you missed it:

Hi! Found your post after searching for news on Fossella. Recchia has formed an exploratory committee and has some big backing (Rep. Jerry Nadler and even McMahon). Cusick and McMahon are not going to jump into this race unless there is some massive scandal and the DCCC comes throwing money at one of them to take out Fossella. So expect to see a Harrison v. Recchia primary race although I am not sure both will stay in through September.

Good stuff.

[phone scripter to the stars]

As many of you know, I have been pitching in a bit to help Steve Harrison’s Congressional campaign, mostly doing bits of writing and editing.

As part of that effort, I did some major editing of a phone script for automated calls, to be delivered by none other than President Bill Clinton. Someone from the Harrison campaign was kind enough to let me hear the finished product, and sure enough, Bill Clinton is reading the script I handed in!

I have been promised a WAV file, but not until after the campaign, just to be sure no obscure regulations or rules of protocol are violated. As soon as I get it, I will of course link to it.

In the meantime, there have been a lot of great developments on the Harrison front, including an extremely tepid endorsement of Fossella by the conservative Staten Island Advance (punchline: “On balance, [Fossela]’s the better candidate for Congress, though we’re less than thrilled to concede that”) and a very strong endorsement of Harrison from the New York Times. You can read all the latest news on Harrison at Blue Spot.

Go, team!