Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hillary's Headquarters: Utica?

It's not quite in the same category as "What if the south had won the Civil War?" or "What if Hitler had died in WW I?", but Howard Wolfson's latest column for The New Republic has a tantalizing glimpse at the alternative history that might have been:

If I had my way I would be in Utica, New York right now.

When we first discussed where to put the Clinton campaign's headquarters I half-seriously argued for Utica, on the theory that the further away from Washington, D.C. we were, the better off we would be.

Outside of the beltway there would be fewer distractions, and most importantly, less pressure to succumb to Washington, DC group-think.

The Obama campaign understood this and located in Chicago. In the end we chose to plant our flag in Arlington.

I'm no Harry Turtledove, but I would hazard a guess that the alternative "Utica HQ" timeline would have Senator Clinton knocked out of the Democratic primary even earlier. After all, we're the end-state, in every sense, of everything she represents. In particular, the first television crew to visit the city for the inevitable process story would have quickly learned how something she said seven years ago still resonates across upstate New York:

I have now spent countless hours talking to parents who tell me, with tears in their eyes, that their children had to leave upstate, leave their hometown, because there weren't jobs for them. I want to help address that, not ignore it, not put happy talk on it, and I have a plan to do that."

That was Hillary Clinton talking during a Sept. 13, 2000, debate with Rick Lazio during her first campaign for the U.S. Senate.

During that campaign, Clinton repeatedly told voters that if she was elected to the Senate, she had an economic recovery plan that would bring 200,000 new jobs to upstate New York in six years.

That was what she said. Two hundred thousand new jobs in six years.

She said it during a visit to a steel plant outside Buffalo. She told it to a chamber of commerce meeting in Batavia. She said it in places like Niagara Falls, Amsterdam, Oneonta and Binghamton. She said it in political ads.

What voters clearly heard was a candidate promising 200,000 jobs if she was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Well, it is six years later.

Rather than gain jobs, upstate New York has fewer jobs.

Upstate has lost 32,400 jobs during the six years Clinton has been senator, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. New York state, as a whole, has lost 96,800 jobs.

The national perception that Clinton's support in New York is unassailable is based primarily on her powerbase downstate. Upstate, the bitterness over her faux campaign pledge would have been a rich source of material for her opponents. Images of the empty storefronts, derelict industrial buildings, and hundreds of abandoned homes that fill Utica are tailor made to illustrate the folly of three decades of empty political promises and failed policies.

Unfortunately, we've unintentionally become the poster children for what happens in a high tax/high government services environment: businesses both large and small flee from the crushing cost of operations while more and more of the economy becomes totally dependant on government spending. The number one employer in Oneida County is government, from the federal down to the local level, closely followed by the healthcare and social services sector. Together, they account for over 60% of the area's jobs. Even the retail sector is being reshaped by Medicaid and Medicare payments, as anyone who has noticed the incredible number of chain pharmacies popping up across the area can attest.

Given that, it's hard to see how having her headquarters here would have helped her. We're the perfect example of what the rest of the country could expect from her policies, and the results are depressingly, bitterly, brutal.