Note: By the time you read this, the election will
have occurred and we should know the outcome, but, no matter who
is elected, the people of the 23rd C.D. will see some major changes
in their own lives and the lives of their many small communities.
Here are a few points that may not have been considered.
a lot of buzz around the election of a new congressional representative
in New York’s 23rd Congressional District at the national level
- TV pundits, politicians, and analysts of all kinds - but the state
of the people’s lives is not often mentioned.
huge district, spread across the northern part of the state, is
not what you’d call the high rent district. There is a lot of poverty
and its people, along with citizens of the rest of rural New
York, have been trying for generations to find their way to a share
of the benefits of prosperity.
there have been some periods of prosperity in New
York, as in the rest of the country, mostly it has been boom and
bust for the past half-century. But the people of the 23rd and the
Empire State’s other rural districts have
endured, as they do today.
robustly Republican district of a strange physical conformation,
the district has been represented by a Republican since around the
time of the Civil War. The last of these representatives, John McHugh,
was tapped by President Obama to serve as Secretary of the Army
and he accepted.
the scramble for a replacement and the very bloody fight among Republicans
on the party’s right wing (is there another?) to select a candidate
to run against the Democrat.
a few short weeks ago, it looked as if the candidate chosen by the
local Republican county committees, Dede Scozzafava, would be the
shoo-in that has come to be expected in the district. Republican
politicians at the national level, respecting the choice made by
the locals, endorsed Scozzafava and thought the thing was done.
Republicans on the fringe of the right and their echo chambers in
talk radio and television had a different idea. To
them, Scozzafava was too liberal. She had had the temerity to support
rights of workers to form unions and, of all things, to support
were other issues, but those two apparently were enough for the
likes of Sarah Palin and others from the far edges, to proclaim
their undying support for the Conservative Party candidate, Doug
Hoffman, an anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-abortion - and you can
go down the line of any number of right-wing issues on which Hoffman
is in line with Palin and Dick Armey, a former congressional leader
who now runs an organization that promotes such things as tea parties
on and for the right.
the eyes of dairy farmers who are the primary sources of economic
activity in large portions of the 23rd C.D., New York - the nation’s
third-largest dairy state - and its representatives have not done
enough to save them from foreclosure. Milk prices are at the levels
that they were a few decades ago and, if the cost of living is considered,
they are the lowest in a few generations. Large meetings have been
held around the district on that issue alone. The situation is desperate
for most of them, and the same is true for other farmers and most
of the rural citizens in Northern New York.
kind of Band-Aid approach that most government agencies and politicians
have proposed is nothing more than that. What’s needed is the kind
of stimulus that was provided, mostly without strings attached,
to Wall Street banks, financial manipulators, and insurance giants.
Nothing less will do.
will be interesting, no matter who wins, Democrat Bill Owens or
Conservative Doug Hoffman. Dede Scozzafava suspended her campaign
several days ago, on the basis that she had little support in funds
or from her party. She endorsed Owens as the best candidate for
the Democrat wins, will he be able to deliver to his district what
is needed in the way of economic relief to the district, for schools,
farms, small businesses, transportation, health care, and clean
air and water? All of these are desperately needed, even though
there are small areas in the district that have seen a small increase
in economic well-being, the Fort Drum area, near Watertown.
course, that boost is from the U.S.
war economy that has been supported by both Democrats and Republicans
in Congress. If the nation’s political leaders feel that the seemingly
endless war and defense spending flags, that could mean an economic
downturn for the area. It happened in the eastern part of the district
a number of years ago, when the Plattsburgh Air Force Base was closed.
the Conservative wins and is faithful to the Palin-Armey (and his
own) right-wing philosophy, the district could be in for a further
slide. He’ll have to fight to cut or curb government programs for
such things as aid to farmers, whose products are in the “free-market”
system and, therefore, if they can’t survive, they should just find
other lines of work.
example, unemployment is typically high in the 23rd C.D., as it
is in the other rural areas of the state (most of the state). The
Republicans in Washington have just voted against any extension of federal unemployment
benefits for people who have been unable to find any job, and have
trouble putting dinner on the table.
Hoffman is to the right of those GOP members of Congress, what would
he have to do to show his right-wing bona fides? Ask
the unemployed to return some of the money that they’ve received
in the past six months?
23rd Congressional District did not get in the shape that it’s in
overnight. It has been a long time coming and conservative Republican
policies - prodded by their members on the right - are what put
decade after decade, generation after generation, they put the same
kinds of people in office, from the same party, pushing the same
kinds of policies and expecting a different outcome.
the long-ago demise of the small boot and shoe factories and dress
factories and logging and mining across the breadth of the 23rd,
there has been little except farming and seasonal tourism (unless
you want to consider the relatively low-wage jobs of government,
schools, and the health “industry”).
there have been reports that the abandoned farms around Fort Drum are being bought up for building
of housing for the military, dependents, and civilians who work
at the base.
some ways, it’s like a military-industrial-complex-inspired gold
rush. As in all gold rushes, it won’t last forever. That small bit
of prosperity is fleeting and, when it’s over, the district will
still be facing economic woes, or it might be set on a new course
by a different candidate with different ideas.
district’s future won’t be a picnic if they elect the Democrat,
because the problems are of such long standing. But, if things are
bad now, especially for dairy farmers who are the mainstay of many
of the local economies, how much worse will they become if the Conservative
is elected and remains true to his ideology and that of his mentors,
Sarah Palin and Dick Armey.
least, if all seems lost, farmers can sell their land to the Pentagon.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer and former union organizer.
His union work started when he became a local president of The Newspaper
Guild in the early 1970s. He was a reporter for 14 years for newspapers
in New York State.
In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they
struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory
food producers and land developers. Click here
to contact Mr. Funiciello.