Wednesday, August 5, 2015

GOP a Toxic Brand, at Least in Dryden

When I moved to Dryden in 1991, it was pretty much a Republican town. We had a Democratic town supervisor, and the village had a Democratic mayor, but on the whole, the voting population was heavily and historically Republican. That year, the supervisor ran unopposed, but chose to run on a second ballot line (Dryden Independent) to allow Republicans to vote for him without qualms.

In 1995, we elected our first Democratic town board member since I'd moved here. In 1999, she won again by running both as a Democrat and on the Livable Dryden line. She was lonely, though, and by 2003, Republicans held the entire town board and supervisor position.

Then things started to change. As Simon St. Laurent pointed out on Living in Dryden, suddenly in 2007, 9 out of 11 districts proved more willing to vote Democratic than in 2003 or 2005. For the first time in living memory, the board tilted 3-2 Democratic (although one candidate was an independent running on the Democratic line). By 2011, the distance between Democrats and opponents was substantial. Even in districts where more Republicans voted, Democrats won.

A number of things happened to cause this change: Demographics shifted slightly. Anti-fracking sentiments crossed party lines. And locally, Tea Party Republicans started to scare the bejeezus out of old-time Republicans, to the extent that we Democrats started to hear complaints from the opposition about their committee leadership.

Now we find ourselves in a presidential race where Republicans favor Donald Trump, believing that "he's one of us." To most Dryden Republicans, that's just crazy talk. When you look at "What's Important" on the Tompkins County Republican website, you find that it's "suing the president." I doubt that for the majority of Dryden Republicans, suing the president ranks anywhere near their Top Ten of Important Things. The Republicans of Dryden are not the Republicans of talk radio.

The upshot is that we have no Republican candidates in Dryden this year, save for the Town Clerk. There is a slate of candidates running on the Independence line, which is frequently used locally as a second line for Republicans (and in the case of our sheriff, for Democrats). The candidate for town justice, a 20-year incumbent, turned down the Republican nomination, changed his registration to independent/blank, and is running on the Democratic line. The last time I checked the Dryden Republican website, it had been hacked by "a Muslim."

I'm not going to pretend that I see Dryden as representing the nation at large. It's just one little corner, where some people feel that their Party has left them, and some of those people are choosing to return the favor. The Democrats have a strong ticket in Dryden this year. The Independence Party (which has a kooky left-wing platform in NYS, by the way—I wonder how many people running on that line have read it) has a fairly strong ticket, too. My guess is that the two slates will talk local issues and find that there's more common ground than they might expect. They won't be talking about the Pledge of Allegiance, or suing the president, or who's a better Christian, or any of the pseudo-issues that got in the way of sensible discourse a few years ago. Sic transit stultitia mundi. Or if not mundi, at least here on the local scene.

No comments: