wasn't supposed to cover the Hofstra debate, or even the protests
outside. But a family emergency recently summoned me back to my
native Long Island, so I broke away for about five hours yesterday to
sample the madness. It felt good to be home; despite all of the
warranted abuse that the Gold Coast gets for harboring guidos, the
place really is a magical bourgeois paradise, and a
phenomenal place to people watch.
clear in the national coverage that obsessed over the wealth in
Nassau County, outsiders don't really get Long Island. It's
not exclusively for billionaires and Buttafuccos; rather the stretch also claims
blue collar cats like Billy Joel, and hood legends like Prodigy from Mobb Deep, the
latter of whom was raised in the same town where last night's debate
took place. Next to the glitz, Nassau has some of
the poorest communities in New York state.
of those disparate groups, the same Long Island that's best known for
deplorable, self-involved shoppers actually produced an impressive
show of demonstrators. Hours before the debate, in excess of 200
heads showed up across Hempstead Turnpike from Hofstra, and that was
before Occupy the East End and Occupy Long Island arrived flanked by
their Wall Street allies. But first . . .
on the ground for less than five minutes when two Nassau cops stopped and frisked a young man with a dark
complexion. He was about 50 yards outside of the designated protest
zone – not far from where America's first black president was about
to debate – and bothering no one. Officers let him go
after their search yielded nothing – and after representatives from the
NYCLU walked up.
than that assault on civil liberties, the most offensive sight last night was probably a Romney guy's pic of a dead fetus, followed by the
army of brain-dead partisans. Having chased protest movements
so fervently in recent years, I often forget that some people –
most people – still stand with murderous big party pols who pocket
money from the bloody banks. But there they were, cheesy inoffensive
signs and all.
scene at Hofstra was hardly a radical picnic. For one, in order to
gain access to the allotted picket pen, people had to have their bags
searched. So while the pink-clad Planned Parenthood parade and other
Obama cheerleaders happily entered the cage, most people who came to
hoot and holler did so about two blocks away – and eight traffic
lanes across – from the main Hofstra entrance.
I couldn't find any Long Islanders who hold grudges about Obama's
so-called tanning tax, which was famously maligned by Snooki some
time ago. Still the pandemonium was action-packed, with such
magnificent annoyances as Catholics, Tea Partiers, and the Torah Jews
against Zionism in attendance. The LaRouche band was also rolling
thick, their front man resembling a Young Republican on thorazine.
highlight moment, at around 5pm, some former employees of Bain
Capital-backed companies – Dunkin' Donuts, Outback, you name it –
gave impassioned speeches that got Obama fans wet in the pants. But
while their effort was indeed noble, they should stop calling their
caravan the “Bain Bus.” I know that Romney's former enterprise
screwed tons of people, but if they're not aiming for an
inappropriate “Bang Bus” pun, then the two simply sound too much
mess of agenda items on display, the most off-the-wall
fascinating came from a group called Young Evangelicals for Climate
Action. They're not a comedy troupe – I checked – but rather an
anomalous sect of college students who fear both Jesus and
global warming. YECA activist Curtis Witek says that unlike older
Evangelicals who think we're all going to burn, he believes that god
is restoring the world. Sounds good to me.
Tea Partiers weren't as kind. After berating a group of Sudanese
peace crusaders who were speaking in the designated zone, about two
dozen patriots walked their flags down Hempstead Turnpike to scold
passing cars. For about an hour, they were the loudest show in town –
overpowering thrice as many Obama boosters on the same corner –
until more than 100 Occupiers showed up to urinate in their kettle.
course, the aforementioned spectacles were all secondary to yesterday's
big protest moment – the arrest of Green party presidential
candidate Jill Stein and her running mate, anti-poverty activist
Cheri Honkala. In news that's now beginning to echo past the
far-left side of the internet, they were jailed for trying to enter
the arena, and subsequently handcuffed in isolation for hours. In
America, that's how we treat third-party candidates who seek a level
I was actually surprised that most local news outlets didn't run the
Stein story – probably because I'd just met more progressives in a
few hours than I ever did in my entire 18 years on Long Island. But
they largely and lazily ignored it, leading me to believe that the
national media has every right to say what it does about where I'm
from – blanket overstatements and all. The place really is an
enclave for rich assholes. Judging by last night, its poor people are invisible.