Why Max Rose Really Won NY-11

It wasn’t his telegenic head

It was dismaying to read Ginia Bellafante’s article in The New York Times, entitled “What Max Rose Can Teach Democrats About Beating Republicans” (Big City, Nov 7). Frankly, the article is insulting and overlooks why Max Rose really won NY-11. Spoiler: it has nothing to do with telegenic or not telegenic bald head.

As all of us on Staten Island know, there has been no massive gentrification (the “forces” the author cites). We’re waiting for a more robust second act — and working hard together to create it — but we understand the challenges that are unique to our borough. As the newly branded “Downtown Staten Island” takes shape but the Wheel is no longer, the momentum for a next chapter on this side of the ferry comes in fits and spurts. We know we’re not Brooklyn, and we’ve never tried to be. We have major transportation infrastructure problems now centuries old that City Hall and Albany continue to ignore — problems that have kept parts of the Island from prospering economically for decades.

So let us please not credit Max Rose’s victory to some magical influx of liberal thinking due to the rise of real estate prices in Park Slope. I, myself, am the gayest, most progressive-thinking, açaí-bowl-eating liberal you’ll meet, and until the Trump Years was as left as I thought we could go (turns out, we can go further). But I, like many of my generation, am the son of a hard-working Staten Island family that has lived here for decades. You have only to look at the numbers to see that there has always been, and always will be, a core of committed Democrats on the Island and in Bay Ridge. In fact, there are more registered Democrats in the district and on the Island than registered Republicans. That core worked tirelessly this time to elect Mr. Rose. And Mr. Rose and his team worked harder; NY-11 has never been asked for its votes so warmly nor relentlessly.

Let’s get the narrative right. We all did our part because we believe Max Rose can represent the district’s values better than Mr. Donovan or Mr. Grimm have in recent years. We are tired of the toxic rhetoric from the White House that continues to get a free pass from the GOP. And we appreciate hard work, enthusiasm, and someone who fights for the middle and working classes. That’s who we are on Staten Island, and we appreciate when we see those qualities in our representatives. Max kept it local; he kept it in your face; and he kept it dignified. This is specifically why Michael Grimm did not win his bid to reclaim his seat. What we don’t appreciate is being made to look foolish on the national stage. Despite Hollywood’s insistence that the good people of the fifth borough are Trump meets Tony Soprano, when Grimm behaved so in Washington, we wouldn’t let him back in office. We like our representatives to be good humans, and Mr. Rose is just that.

True, it was an upset, one that the district will continue to celebrate on one side and analyze on the other. But it was not due to youth and gentrification, as the author claims. Rather, it is reflective of a community (one much like our nation as a whole) that is still struggling to find a comfortable place on an ever-widening political spectrum. Staten Island, just like America, is not “Trumpland.” We voted for Bill Clinton, Gore, Obama, McMahon, and now Rose. We are a purple place, through and through. We oscillate between red and blue because as a whole we fall in the overlapping space in between. We are the home of many socially progressive but fiscally conservative New York families who have been wooed by both the left and right. The GOP has just done a much better job in the last decade of convincing these families that a red vote is in their best interests. It is not, in the opinion of this writer. The challenge for the Democrats, as we look ahead, is to make the case that a blue vote more accurately addresses our daily concerns as individuals and reflects our core values as a people, both here in NY-11 and nationwide. That is what Mr. Rose did, and it’s why he won. And that is what Rose can teach Democrats about beating Republicans.

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Where the personal, pandemic and the political meet // juliovincent.com • @juliovincent

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