I’ve always thought of myself as a savvy New Yorker, in touch with the spirit and the vibe that makes this amazing city tick. I thought I understood the politics and the concerns of my fellow New Yorkers. Then – I spent a week as a patient in a New York City hospital. And my eyes opened wide.
They say New York is a cultural melting pot. And it is. And the staff of nurses and PCAs (patient care aides) and PAs and housekeeping staff on my floor were a microcosm of that pot.
In the dark of night, while other patients slept or tried to sleep or struggled through the fogs of anesthesia and medications, I rested in my hospital bed, strategically located outside the hub of the ward, the nurses’ station. I learned so much about what New Yorkers are really thinking.
Overheard in New York
I was privy to all kinds of conversations – including plans for a labor strike that was later aborted.
The conversations were held among staff from a “United Nations” of employees.
And this is what I heard:
About education: “Our kids are not learning in school.” “How can our country survive without education, especially math?” “We have to fix the failing schools.”
About borders: “If we had to come legally why should they just come in?” “Remember when Biden floated the plan to pay each illegal $100,000?”
About law and order: “I’m afraid every time I’m on the subway.” “I’m afraid whenever I’m outside on the street.” “Why are the politicians letting this happen?” ”We need to arrest, prosecute and convict.”
About politicians: “They are all crooks.” “Cannot trust any of them.” “Trump is a criminal.” “Biden has lost his mind.” “Biden is mentally incapable.”
Night after night I was taken aback by what I was hearing. Here I was, in New York City, a bastion of the Democratic Party and Democrats, and their policies, priorities and personalities were being bashed with as much vitriol and frustration as were the Republicans.
What happened to the Democrats?
What happened to turn Main Street New York City around? What happened to all those who had gathered around AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ready to anoint the queen of progressives as the savior of not only our city, but also the country?
For the past years, there has been an assumption that liberalism was, while not the voice of the majority in this city, very widespread. And while it may have been, it is no more. In New York City today, liberalism is not the loudest voice of the people.
Not to say that AOC doesn’t have a significant following. She does. In the primary election for her congressional seat, she beat her Democratic opponent Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. While it was not even a close race, AOC outspent her opponent. AOC spent $10.5 million to win the primary and her opponent spent $2m.
I had assumed that I would be hearing praise for President Joe Biden and bashing of Donald Trump. I did, but certainly not exclusively. It was an even split. I expected the speakers to embrace bail reform. Not at all. If the election were to be held in that nurses’ station in that New York City hospital, conservatives would have a very good showing.
America is a very large and complicated country. As is New York, especially New York City. Life in New York has changed. And as I heard, loud and clear, people are running scared. Scared about their future and scared for the future of their children.
So what did I do with all this information I was gleaning? I certainly did not enter the nighttime conversations. I tucked it away. And I’m sharing it with you.
The writer is a columnist and a social and political commentator. Watch his new TV show Thinking Out Loud on JBS.