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New York politicians must avoid extremism after midterms

3 minute read


This month’s general election — across the nation and here in New York — provided welcome affirmation that Americans continue to believe in the power and purpose of our republic’s democracy.

A broadly forecasted red wave of Republican success at every level fizzled. Republican challengers who anticipated rolling into governors’ mansions — including our own in Albany — were largely sent packing, while Republican incumbents who hew toward the center tended to hold their seats. In elections for the U.S. House and the Senate, similar patterns emerged. Candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump, by and large, did not succeed nor did Republicans who had, by voice or action, denied the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

In turn, the 2022 election has been hailed as a victory for Democrats. The party of FDR, JFK, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did not anticipate their successes with an electorate impatient for economic recovery and stabilized public safety. But polls — increasingly unreliable, in our view — that called for sound Democratic defeats were wrong.

NY election results: Dems maintain control, including Hochul, as GOP chase key upsets

How, then, did American voters once again shirk off media predictions about their moods?

Women made their voices heard on the issue of reproductive choice — and that was heartening.

And, broadly, the electorate chose to elect a divided Congress — Democrats will hold control of the Senate while Republicans are poised to run the House — in what appears to be an affirmation of our long-held democratic values and the systems that sustain them.

What lessons should our elected leaders across New York take from these outcomes?

» Hew to the middle. First, in a state as large as ours — with a collection of more than a dozen regions each with their own political landscapes, economic challenges and levels with diversity — centrism is OK. The fastest glance at the state’s electoral map from last week’s contest shows a microcosm of the American political divide. Democrats largely captured their victories in the state’s cities and their immediate suburbs. Upstate, and generally in the state’s more rural areas, Republicans remain dominant. One policy arena ripe for compromise is public safety, where we believe Democrats and Republicans can come together to find meaningful solutions on gun crime and bail reform.

» Economic pressures are real. Inflation, despite signs this week of a potentially resurgent stock market and encouraging consumer spending in October, is still impacting all of our wallets as we navigate daily and weekly expenses at the pump and the check-out counter. As the Legislature readies for a new session, it would be wise to consider any and all efforts to stem pressures on state taxpayers. Federal legislators should do the same and should surely pursue more meaningful goals like the restoration of the SALT exemption.

» Listen to women, our diverse communities and young people. Women were highly motivated members of the November electorate, as we’ve reported. Reproductive choice drove many to the polls, and their voices were surely heard. Similarly, people of color continued to generally vote in support of candidates who have affirmed social justice causes. Other diverse communities have been badly impacted by inflation and made showings on behalf of candidates who were hawkish on inflation. Finally, young people made their voices heard in races across the state and on a range of issues.

» Democracy counts. New Yorkers and their fellow Americans sent a message last week: They remained faithful, in large part, to the sustaining the health of our democratic tradition. Election deniers, including the Republican gubernatorial candidate, were largely shown the door. This week, former President Donald Trump announced his third presidential candidacy. Alas, his shadow and that of the chaos wrought in his name in the Jan. 6 attacks and other efforts to stymie the results of the 2020 presidential contest will continue to loom in our policy debates. New York politicians on both sides of the aisle need to move forward — especially Republicans.

These maxims will guide our focus on politics as we head into a new year, a new Congress and a new session for the Legislature in Albany.

We believe deeply in the essential need for two political parties at every level of our politics. Ideals held dear by liberals and conservatives alike have done great things for our country and our state when melded together in nuanced compromises on policy. Extremism for the sake of extremism presents dangers at every turn.

In this political environment, in which a deeply engaged electorate as equally divided, moderation is a maxim we’ll champion in the days and weeks ahead.

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