There are only 15 days to go before New Yorkers head to the polls and decide between the three New Yorkers running for president: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. Given the history each candidate has in the state, we already have a pretty good idea of how voters feel about them, even though it’s not quite clear if those connections will help or hinder their success once ballots are counted. While we wait, we’re sampling each politician’s history and trying to assemble a hodgepodge of stories about their support in New York. Last week, we looked at Donald Trump and his overpowering presence in the city; now, let’s glance at Brooklyn-born Bernie Sanders’s more quiet history in New York.
(Next week, we’ll tackle Clinton, who wasn’t born in New York but is the only candidate to have actually represented New Yorkers.)
New Yorkers like Bernie — but they still seem to like Clinton more
The most recent polling has Clinton up by 10 points in the state, although the gap between the two keeps shrinking. Who knows what could happen in the next two weeks? Young people, however, are solidly in the pro-Bernie camp, even in New York. A Siena College poll from early March showed that 57 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds wanted to vote for Bernie. Bernie also had a slight lead among voters who put "Other" for their religion; Clinton led among all other demographics.
Those people who do support Bernie are pretty good at being extra loud; last week, Sanders visited the South Bronx and was greeted by about 18,500 cheering supporters. One 17-year-old told Wired, "No other candidate has come to the Bronx to express himself." Another young person told Vice, "If you think Bernie's supporters are only white, come to the Bronx."
Even though he is behind, Sanders really wants to win New York. Hell, he needs to win it if he wants to make it to the White House, something he noted at his rally last week. "If we win here in New York, we are going to make it to the White House."
"He speaks Brooklyn"
From the moment Bernie opens his mouth, it’s easy to pinpoint his birthplace. String a few of his millionAYRES and billionAYRES and thawts and yuge invisible h’s into Google Maps, and it will send you straight to Brooklyn.
Vox called his accent a "linguistic fossil from a very particular place and time." New York magazine could hear "the early, slightly prudish Greenwich Village of Max Eastman and Joe Gould, of very intense arguments had very early in the morning." Atlas Obscura notes that his accent "boasts more and more intense versions of the hallmarks of the New York City dialect due to his upbringing as lower-middle class" when compared to Trump’s.
New Yorkers are pretty excited about the chance to vote for not one, but two people with recognizable accents. The New York Times found one of Sanders’s former classmates in Flatbush, who remembered when Bernie was a kid. "I’m very proud of the fact that he speaks Brooklyn, because he’s not a phony, and that shows," she said. Bernie’s lingering Brooklyn memorabilia has also given people not in the city something to treasure: a chance to watch Larry David impersonate that accent frequently over the course of the election season.
Many people equate Bernie’s accent with a New York state of mind, too. A campaign volunteer from Long Island told The Brooklyn Paper, "He stands up to people and has this very New York attitude that he doesn’t really take any BS from anyone, it would be incredible for people to see that."
Bernie does not have a MetroCard
When Sanders talked to the New York Daily News editorial board last week, he was asked when he last rode the subway. He thought it might have been a year ago. It must not have been a memorable experience, however, because his understanding of innovations in public transportation is a bit hazy. "What do you mean, ‘How do you ride the subway these days?’" he said at one point. "You get a token and you get on."
The UWS has money to Bern
Sanders’s campaign has raised nearly $140 million so far, per the Center for Responsive Politics. At least $4 million of that came from New York (and probably a lot more, as campaigns don’t have to release where donations under $200 came from). The third most profitable zip code for Bernie overall is 10025, up on New York’s Upper West Side, from which he has raised at least $120,621.
Of course, most candidates raise a lot of money in New York, as it happens to be a place of intense concentrated wealth (something that any Sanders supporter knows well). Clinton has raised at least $38 million from New York, and nearly a million from 10024, also on the Upper West Side.
There is a Hall of Fame in Brooklyn featuring Judge Judy and Bernie
On a wall at James Madison High School in Brooklyn, there is a huge plaque made of dark wood. At the top, in caps-locked gold lettering, are the words "Madison Wall of Distinction." Below them is a Hollywood Squares arrangement of black-and-white photos paired with tags featuring very familiar names. Former cheerleader, current Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was added to the wall in 2001, as was class of ‘67 valedictorian Senator Chuck Schumer. In 2008, Class of ‘59 long-distance runner Senator Bernie Sanders’s picture was put on the wall. Judge Judy also has a spot, but other famous alums, like Chris Rock, have yet to appear. When the New York Times noted in 2006 that the school could boast about having graduated three sitting senators -- Schumer, Sanders, and Norm Coleman -- Sanders told them, "That’s nothing. You should see the basketball players we had." He added that he was a "fairly good, not great" student.
Bernie campaigns "like a Brooklynite," whatever the heck that means
Clinton and Sanders both have campaign offices in Brooklyn; the former has her huge headquarters in Brooklyn Heights, while Sanders’s is in Gowanus near the Morbid Anatomy Museum and Whole Foods. Despite both having roots in the borough, a Clinton surrogate told reporters last month that Bernie is "going to campaign like a Brooklynite, and she’s going to campaign like a senator who represented this state for eight years and has lived here for 16."
No one has figured out what "campaign like a Brooklynite" means, or why it is a bad thing.
People outside NYC would like to remind you that they have opinions about Bernie too
Hillary Clinton still has a lead in the polls, and Democratic elected officials in the state overwhelmingly support the former senator; but there are plenty of pockets of Sanders support, even outside of his hometown, and, as is always the case with Bernie fans, they go about their support quite fervently. At a church in Plattsburgh last summer, one woman with Upstate New York for Bernie told North Country Public Radio, "I have never volunteered for any – anything political before. That’s how strongly I feel about Bernie. I’m probably not unique … He has so much feeling. It looks like his veins are popping out of his head when he talks because he really, really means what he’s saying." In Utica, not too far from Hamilton College, where Bernie Sanders briefly taught before winning his first congressional campaign, supporters have been begging the candidate to come visit for months. The same percentage of New Yorkers upstate like Bernie as in the city — 56 percent — according to a recent Siena College poll. Only 36 percent of people upstate said they planned on voting for Bernie, though.
If you can’t win them with talk about income inequality, try ice cream
Last week, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the ice cream makers who support their fellow Vermonter, handed out samples of their new ice cream flavor in Union Square. It is called Bernie’s Yearning, and is made of 99 percent mint ice cream, and covered with a thin layer of sweet, sweet, 1 percenter hard chocolate. You have to break up the chocolate and spread the wealth through the rest of the ice cream before you can eat it. (In the Sanders administration, even dessert will not be spared from discussions of economic theory.)
It was not clear whether the many people who showed up were pro-Bernie, pro-free-samples, or very much both.