Democrats Need to Rebuild From the Ground Up

The DNC should stop focusing on the presidency

Hillary Clinton, Tom Perez

Former Labor Secretary and now Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez is seen campaigning last year with Hillary Clinton.

It wasn’t at all surprising that President Obama’s former labor secretary Tom Perez was elected new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He represents the centralist faction of the party and had the support of the establishment behind him.

It also wasn’t surprising that Perez focused a good portion of his brief victory speech on combating President Trump, saying “Jan. 20 was an undeniably important today. But Jan. 21 and beyond was far more important for America. Millions of people stood up and said ‘Donald Trump, you do not stand for America.’”

Perez’s words here actually underscore the fundamental weakness of the Democratic Party over the last eight years — placing too much focus on the White House.

Yes, Barack Obama was the party’s gem of a lifetime and they contributed a lot of resources to help him get elected overwhelmingly two times. But in doing so, they essentially abandoned Democrats everywhere else. Obama came into office with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 2008. But since then, Democrats have lost 68 House seats, 11 Senate seats, 10 governorships and more than 900 state legislature seats. To be frank, Democrats have lost more power under Obama than any party has under any president ever. To top it off, in 2016, Democrats even managed to lose Senate races in blue states in a presidential election year. That just doesn’t happen.

Now the gem that was Obama is out of office and Democrats have nothing to fall back on. They’re the most powerless nationwide that they’ve been in nearly a century.

If the party wants to emerge from the ashes, its leaders need to put to an end the idea that presidential candidates somehow always trickle down to down-ballot Democrats, and then stacking those Democrats ‘ platforms with national issues will get their base to the polls.

They need to stop focusing on winning the presidency and start rebuilding the party from the bottom up. A Democratic president isn’t so wonderful when the opposition controls the rest of the country.

Now, Perez did say that under his leadership, the party will go back to basics and reach out to those communities that feel they’ve been left behind by the DNC, as all other candidates for the position did. But Democrats have been picked off for years and the DNC hasn’t seemed to learn from their mistakes or alter their tactics at all. So why would they start now?

They could’ve seen 2016 coming. Hillary Clinton lost safe Democratic states like Michigan and Wisconsin and party officials want to blame Russia and the FBI for that. But the Democratic senatorial candidate in Wisconsin, Ohio or Pennsylvania didn’t win either. Point being, those safe Democratic states aren’t so safe anymore — because they’re not Democratic anymore. Wisconsin has elected just two Democratic governors of the last eight and Republicans have held the state assembly for 19 of the last 21 years. In Michigan, Republicans have won five of the last seven governor races and have held the state senate for more than 30 years.

Be that as it may, the DNC has only helped Republicans maintain power by drying up funds to state Democratic parties and operations under the Obama years, forcing cuts in staff and decreasing get-out-the-vote efforts on the ground.

When Republicans were the minority eight years ago, their organizations started from scratch, funding school board races and communicating with state legislatures. Since 2010, they have come roaring back. 

While the GOP was doing that, Democrats abandoned former chair Howard Dean’s “50-state strategy,” which focused on races everywhere, after it successfully helped Democrats make big gains in red states like Virginia, gains that have now reversed. Frank Leone understood. A DNC member from Virginia in 2008, he wrote a letter to Dean five days after Obama’s election, touting the initiative’s success and requesting it remain in place.

But instead the DNC focused on getting out only their base in key areas, sent money to only competitive contests and used most of its energy on presidential elections, which even now retired former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid criticized them for. He told Buzzfeed back in December that “the DNC operates for about eight or nine months every four years. [They should] work year-round and help state parties, and they have not done that.”

Of course, it’s not just about money. It’s about the message — specifically, the right kind of message for the right kind of people. A 50-state strategy doesn’t work if Democratic candidates in Oregon and Oklahoma talk about the exact same things.

Down-ballot Democrats’ tactic in 2016 was simple: Associate Republican candidates of all levels with Donald Trump. While many Republicans focused on the specific issues of whatever city or district they were running in, Democrats spent more energy nationalizing local elections, holding rallies specifically in protest of Trump and riding on national headlines as part of their discussions with constituents. That didn’t work.

And while framing themselves as the anti-Trump party will undoubtedly help their case over the next few years, it’s highly questionable if it will be as effective as needed to regain any power. Democrats face an uphill battle in the 2018 midterm elections. Twenty-five Democratic senators are up in re-election, many of them in states Trump easily won. And Democrats are notoriously bad at turning out in midterms. The best chance of making any ground would be to mention Trump, but not base their entire message on the president or solely on issues happening at the federal level.

The saying goes that “all politics is local,” but Democrats should focus on the last word of that phrase if they want to make inroads in the rural parts of America that overwhelmingly voted against them in 2016.

Back to basics, back to your roots, from the ground up, whatever cliché expression you want to use, that’s what Perez and Democrats need to do in the Trump era. The first step is to stop saying they’re going to do it and  show a sign they will actually do it. If they don’t, they’d better get used to losing.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at

Crowd Sizes And Election Margins Aren’t What We Remember About Presidents

History judges our leaders by their accomplishments, not how much they win by


President Richard Nixon waves goodbye before boarding a helicopter after resigning from office on August 9, 1974.

Let me ask you this. When you hear the name Richard Nixon, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

I bet most, if not all people, would instantly associate that U.S. president with words and expressions like “Watergate,” “cover-up,” “scandal,” or “I’m not a crook.”

The first thing you learn about him is that he was the first and only president to resign from office because of the affair. At the very least, that’s what he will always be remembered for as the specifics of his administration fade into memory.

We remember presidents by their accomplishments, not their rhetoric. We remember presidents by what they did to better the country, not better their image. And it’s no different now.

Donald Trump has been president for one month — and what a month it’s been. So far he will be remembered for dysfunction in his White House, resignations of several aides, trashing the media, inspiring mass protests in streets around the country and seemingly endless battles with judges and courts regarding policy.

But that’s not what he thinks. And that’s not what he thinks we should remember. According to him, his administration is moving like a “fine tuned machine.”

But recent events would suggest otherwise. In the last week, he asked for the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn for lying to the vice president about discussing U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador, then blamed the media for it. Then Trump’s pick to replace Flynn turned down the offer. Trump’s nominee for secretary of labor dropped out of the running because he wouldn’t get the needed votes in Congress. And then The New York Times reported that calls and phone records were uncovered between Trump’s campaign aides and other associates with senior Russian intelligence officials before the election.

When questioned about all of these things at his explosive press conference last Thursday, Trump kept fighting back with one very definitive argument.

“Story after story after story is bad,” he said, referring to his news coverage. “I won. I won.”

It’s his favorite rebuttal. No matter how much people hate him, no matter what bad press comes out about him, no matter what facts get skewed, there is still one thing that nobody can deny him: He won the election.

That is the one thing he wants us to remember. But not just that he won, but how much he won by. Such a thing is usually long past discussion and completely irrelevant one month into office — yet he keeps bringing it up.

One month after his election, we announced to a crowd that “we had a massive landslide victory.” Shortly after he began his term, he bragged about his victory in a phone call to the Australian prime minister. And at a visit in South Carolina last week, he reminded everyone that he won the state’s Republican primary by a landslide — which happened a full year ago.

Then at the press conference last week, he said his victory was “the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan” — an incredibly false statement. Trump won 306 electoral votes. Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush all won more — a lot more. So no, Trump didn’t win by any historic margin by any means. But, then he’ll boast about his crowd sizes. They were a constant talking point during the campaign and then he claimed he had the largest inauguration crowd in history on Jan. 20, which also wasn’t true.

Alright, so what’s any of this have to do with Richard Nixon?

Well, like Trump, Tricky Dick was also obsessed with winning. It is not well known that Nixon had a personal ambition while running for re-election in 1972. He wanted to win by the biggest margin that any president ever had. To pull off such a feat, Nixon’s campaign needed information and decided breaking into a certain hotel to bug the Democratic National Committee was the way to do it. We all know how well that worked out.

Now, while there has never been any direct evidence linking Nixon himself to planning or the execution of the break-in, it was his aides and his own insecurity that inspired the break-in and then the cover up of the break-in.

It is also not well known that Nixon actually succeeded in his ambition. He won 18 million more votes than Democrat George McGovern in 1972 — the largest win in the popular vote in presidential history. He also won more electoral votes than any other president had up to that time with the exception of Franklin Roosevelt.

He wanted to win big. And he did. But in doing so, he put into motion a simple burglary that took it all away. He won big, but he’s instead remembered for bringing about disgust and fear of trust in presidents and government overall.

Even his greatest accomplishments — creating the EPA, OSHA and Title IX, largely ending segregation in the South, taking the first steps in reducing the nuclear arms race and normalizing diplomatic relations with China — aren’t widely known or are simply overshadowed by Watergate.

Now, it’s too early to say what the age of Trump will most be remembered for. But he should take a lesson from Nixon: In politics, you can win big and still lose more. And possible contact with Russian intelligence during an election year where Russia hacked the opposite party’s headquarters is not a very good start.

Should that explode into a political scandal of Watergate proportions, or even if it doesn’t, Trump cannot ride out his presidency touting his November victory as his greatest accomplishment. I can guarantee that 50 years from now, no school textbook about Donald Trump is going to begin with how big his crowds were. No one is going to remember off the top of their heads that he won 306 electoral votes.

Conspiring with an adversarial power to win an election? Trust me, people would remember that.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at

We’re a Divided Country Because We’ve Reached Another Pivot In Our History

We are amid a clash of eras. And when that happens, tensions run hot



In this portrait, Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Union General Ulysses S. Grant are seen at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia in 1865, marking the end of the Civil War.

My freshman year of college, I took a class entitled “American History to 1865.” Two years later, I took the successor course, “American History: 1865 to Present.” On the first day of the latter, my professor asked us if we knew why 1865 is the point that separates the two. I was aware 1865 was the end of the Civil War, but had actually wondered why that year in particular was the chosen boundary.

He said that when it comes to turning points in our country’s history, none come close to the end of the War Between the States and the period immediately afterward. 1865 was the ultimate pivot — the crossroads of what America had been and what it would be. Our institution, our laws and our very way of life changed forever from that moment forward.

Now, 150 years later, we are again a divided country. It’s definitely not the first time since the Civil War that we have been so, but to many people, it’s difficult to find a time in their collective memory when our politics were as poisoning as they are today and when mutual agreement was so hard to find as it is now. But the reason, in principle, is little different than it was that day at the Appomattox courthouse. While we (thankfully) haven’t resorted to the bloodbath of that time long ago, we have reached another pivot in our history.

No, not a pivot. Pivots. That is what makes this time different. We are in the middle of a reconfiguration of our country on many fronts, many of which have defined America for a very long time. We haven’t changed. We’re changing.

Naturally, there are those who embrace that change and those who don’t — not necessarily because they fear it — but because, in some cases, they feel we should stick with what works. That is why we see such determined and passionate warriors on both sides of all these fronts, fighting for control of exactly which direction we pivot in. We are, by all intents of purposes, amid a clash of eras. A battle for the ages — of the ages.

We’re pivoting on our economy — what made us the most powerful country in the world and created the term “industrialized nation.” Manufacturing created and supported whole communities for more than a century, provided good paying jobs to generations of families and gave birth to the middle class. Whereas the Industrial Revolution 130 years ago transformed our labor force by putting more people to work, the new revolution is doing the opposite, as automation and robotic innovations replace more and more the human assembly lines of the past, leaving mankind to pursue more intellectual forms of work than ever before. But at the same time, it leaves those communities built on human labor searching for a new way to keep them relevant and their people are resilient to abandon a system that worked at one time.

We’re pivoting on energy — what makes our country move. Oil, gas and coal that have powered homes, businesses and schools for so long are slowly beginning to fade out as climate change becomes a driving force in our energy policy, engaging us to look at cleaner alternatives that satisfy the significant amount we consume every day without polluting our air and water. But there are those who believe that’s a pivot we shouldn’t take — whether it’s because they believe climate change is fabricated or believe industrial changes will kill jobs and curb economic growth while barely making any environmental progress.

We’re pivoting on our position in the world — what makes us proud. Lady Liberty welcomed in our ancestors, fleeing persecution and political unrest in search of what we now call “the American Dream.” Then we saved the world from fascist regimes and liberated their victims from the worst kind of atrocities imaginable. We reached out our hand when needed to protect those from communism’s grasp, turned World War II enemies into allies and created a global economy. But doing so has left many of us feeling neglected. Frustrations over our involvement in the Middle East, terrorist groups abroad and national debts have fueled beliefs that we’ve overstayed our welcome as global policeman and we need to begin focusing on us again and even closing our borders to others.

We’re pivoting on race — what makes us whole. We’re seeing the beginning of the end of white Christian America as we know it. In 2013, for the first time, the majority of newborn babies in the U.S. were racial or ethnic minorities. Nearly one-third of eligible voters in the last election were Hispanic, black, Asian or other minority. Eight years ago we elected our first black president, and since then, have witnessed numerous racially-related incidents that became national headlines, from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri to a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Now we see it in our airports as protests erupt over the controversial travel ban from seven Muslim majority nations — a people that are making up more and more of the western world. And there are those who feel we aren’t ready for such integration.

We’re pivoting on our social structure — what makes us, us. White Christian America isn’t just shrinking because of minorities. We’re becoming less religious. Atheists, agnostics and those who say their religion is “nothing in particular” now make up nearly quarter of the U.S. adult population, up from 16 percent just ten years ago. Millennials, who have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation, are far less Christian than their parents, many no doubt turned off by heated tensions and court battles between religious conservatives and the gay and transgender communities, as well as abortion advocates, all of whom are being more welcomed to everyday society. And there are those who believe they shouldn’t be.

We’re pivoting on technology and information. Cell phones, the internet and social media have made us more connected some say, while others say it has killed in-person social interaction. We’re pivoting on education — what we teach future generations and how we teach them. We’re pivoting on how we pay for healthcare, what’s appropriate to say and dress on TV and if we should say “Merry Christmas” or not.

Now, all of these things, and there are many more, have been brewing for quite some time. They all just happen to be pivoting at the same time. And they’re not pivoting because of any one person or one group. Our division would still exist no matter who controlled the White House or the Congress or who marches in the streets holding up signs.

It’s our reality now. We’re again at the crossroads of what America has been and what it will be. And like in 1865, these tumultuous times leave many of us worried, doubtful and uncertain. They leave us hopeful, optimistic and driven. But after 1865, after all we had been through, we emerged stronger and better than before. It is my expectation, it is my hope, that we will do so once more.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at

So Much For ‘The Buck Stops Here’

Trump is more keen on blaming others than taking responsibility

Donald Trump

There are many things that make a great leader great. They must be intelligent, strong and communicative. But perhaps most of all, they must understand they are responsible for the actions and decisions not only of themselves, but of all of those they lead. A good captain must always go down with his ship, we like to say.

There’s no difference when it comes to our presidents. We trust our chief executives to keep us safe, act responsibly and do all within their power to better the country we all love. And when things regarding our governmental operations don’t go right, as they do in every administration, they must know that it is them who ultimately must shoulder the burden. As the infamous sign on President Harry Truman’s desk read, “the buck stops here.”


It may very well be the most difficult duty that comes with holding the office. Since the days of Truman, we have seen many of our presidents live up to their most humbling moments during their term, some of them locking themselves into our memories for a lifetime.

John F. Kennedy took full responsibility for the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 — something he approved and then knew the ramifications of once its disaster became known to the nation. Ronald Reagan apologized (sort of) for the controversial Iran-Contra affair. After continuously denying it, Bill Clinton eventually came out regarding his White House affair with Monica Lewinsky. George W. Bush took responsibility for the failure of the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. And while Hillary Clinton often the target for blame regarding the Benghazi attacks, Barack Obama said “but she works for me. I’m the president and I am always responsible.”

We have yet to see any sign of such an attitude from President Donald Trump. During the campaign, he at one point said he regretted “some” of the things he had said, saying “sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing.” When the 2005 Access Hollywood tape came out showing the billionaire businessman making lewd comments about women, Trump did acknowledge that the comments “were wrong” and he said the words, “I apologize.” But he also finished that apology with using his comments to direct an attack at Bill Clinton.

Okay, we get it. It’s no secret to anyone that Trump didn’t back down whenever he was scrutinized by any politician or member of the media during the campaign. But, as President Obama said to Sen. John McCain at a healthcare summit in 2010, “we’re not campaigning anymore. The election’s over.”

It’s not enough that doubling down and coming out swinging is simply Trump’s style of governing. He’s the one in the chair now. But when he loses, when things don’t go his way, the president likes to blame somebody else or some other system instead of asking himself what he could’ve done better.

He continues to insist that he would’ve won the popular vote in the election if millions of votes weren’t cast illegally — something that neither he nor anyone else has produced credible evidence of. He blamed the protesters and Delta for the all of the chaos at the nation’s airports regarding refugees detained because of his executive travel ban. He regularly blames the press for just about everything — from undermining his inauguration crowd (which wasn’t the largest in history) to his feud with the CIA that he himself initiated.

A CNN report found that Trump apparently regrets hiring Sean Spicer as his press secretary, who has been regularly criticized by the media and mocked by Saturday Night Live. But Trump allegedly blames Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for insisting he was the one for the job. Trump has denied that report.

Now Trump is blaming the legal battles regarding his immigration order on a “so-called judge.” Most strikingly, he felt the need to send out a tweet saying “if something happens blame him and court system.”

Essentially, god forbid there is a terror attack on our soil under his watch, large or small, Trump is saying the judicial branch of government will be responsible, and he wants us to feel the same.

While that in itself is complicated, there are going to be bad things that happen under the Trump administration. He’s not going to be able to win every time. When these things happen, how will Trump react? Will he blame the media, the Democrats, protesters or Sean Spicer? Or will he go down with his ship, swallow his pride and use the opportunity to evaluate his decisions, the staff he surrounds himself with and say the words “I am responsible and I will do all I can to make sure this never happens again”?

History does not suggest the latter.

If the buck doesn’t stop at the desk of President Trump, where exactly does it stop?

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at

Will Cuomo Run For President In 2020?

With Obama’s term over and the Democratic Party effectively leaderless, New York’s governor is climbing through the ranks

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo arrives at Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's rally in New York

In 1984, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo gave a scathing rebuttal of Ronald Reagan at the Democratic National Convention, a speech that electrified the crowd and turned him into a political superstar. There were many Democrats, including the governor himself, who thought he might someday make a bid for the presidency. He never did, eventually passing away in 2015. Now, with Donald Trump in the White House and the Democratic Party out of power at the federal level and in many states, there’s a lot of buzz about whether or not Cuomo’s son, current New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has 2020 vision.


Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo is seen at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.

The younger Cuomo has not said himself whether such plans exist in four years, only that he plans to run for a third term as governor in 2018. But many have sensed national ambitions from him for a long time. And his actions, both before the 2016 election and especially since, offer a wealth of clues.

With Barack Obama’s tenure now over and the 25-year Clinton dynasty ancient history, the Democratic Party is effectively leaderless — and Cuomo is climbing through the ranks. One month after Trump’s election, Cuomo was elected policy chairman for the Democratic Governors Association, ensuring he has a place on the national stage.

It comes at an interesting time for the party. Despite what pundits said throughout the campaign, the Democratic Party is divided, a division on full display in 2016 — it has a centralist Clinton wing and a progressive Bernie Sanders wing. Clinton turned out not to be the candidate to unite the party. To many, Gov. Cuomo may look like the best of both worlds.

He can easily be painted as one of “the Old Guard.” His first term as governor, he was more or less a fiscal conservative who cut taxes on the rich and had a good relationship with state Senate Republicans, so much so that the left-leaning Working Families Party almost didn’t endorse him during his 2014 re-election bid, in which he also faced a surprisingly tough primary challenge from Zephyr Teachout, who’s liberal stance helped her capture a third of the Democratic vote. Cuomo also endorsed Hillary Clinton over Sanders ahead of the New York primaries last year.

But Cuomo has also spent the last few years fulfilling a liberal agenda, mirroring key points Sanders spoke about that made him so popular. In 2011, Cuomo signed into law a measure to make New York the fifth state to legalize gay marriage, now the rule of the land. In 2013, he passed the SAFE Act, which has become a model for tough gun restriction laws around the country. In 2014, he officially banned hydrofracking and thwarted efforts to build oil pipelines in the state. In 2015, he unveiled a plan to make renewable energy generate half of the state’s power by 2030, which laid the groundwork for the largest solar panel producing plant in North America in Buffalo and an offshore wind farm off Long Island. In 2016, he was able to muster the Legislature to approve his plan for a $15 minimum wage and enact a paid family leave program.

In 2017, now aware that 2020 will not be Hillary Clinton’s re-election year, Cuomo released budget proposals that were nothing short of a progressive’s dream. The highlight was a plan to provide free tuition to SUNY and CUNY schools for students with families making less than $125,000 a year, a plan he announced rather theatrically, with of all people, Bernie Sanders, standing by his side to cheer on the proposal.

All of that provides a lot of bragging rights to both wings of the Democratic Party.

But actually, right now Cuomo is already a strong leader in what may be the biggest Democratic equalizer. He is the anti-Trump.

The governor easily ranks among Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren has one of Trump’s most vocal critics. He was among the Democratic governors who signed onto a letter opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act over the impact it would have on states. He added New York to an interstate agreement where states award their electoral votes for president to the candidate that receives a majority of the national popular vote in an effort to undermine the Electoral College system, the reason Trump won to begin with. Cuomo also recently proposed a state constitutional amendment to codify abortion rights should Roe vs. Wade be overturned during the Trump administration or afterward. And of course, he’s been on the front lines of the war against Trump’s executive immigration order, directing officials to protect those detained at John F. Kennedy Airport, home base for the protests going on all over the country.

Yes, it’s safe to say Cuomo is the anti-Trump. But that may not be enough to win the presidency in 2020. After all, Hillary Clinton was the ant-Trump and she lost. To win, Cuomo must be the anti-Trump, plus one.

He’s already taken the first step — acknowledging that Clinton didn’t lose because of Russia or James Comey. “I don’t believe that Trump won,” he said at a birthday fundraiser with his donors. “I believe we lost that election. And I think what it said to the Democrats is there is a middle class that we have not been attentive to and it’s a middle class that’s been suffering for a long time.”

Home run. He knows that Democrats need to reconnect with rural white working class voters to have the best chance of retaking the White Office in 2020. But his 2014 election results show Cuomo doesn’t appear to be doing that too well in upstate New York, a solid base of that voting bloc. Cuomo won only eight counties north of the New York City suburbs. In fact, Cuomo’s 2014 upstate win map is remarkably similar to Clinton’s performance in the presidential election.


He’s clearly aware of that, which is why he crisscrossed the state last month, bringing his State of the State address to different communities in small segments rather than in Albany on one day, hoping to reach out to those small town people who helped elect Trump. And while it probably helped some, he failed to take his message past upstate’s major cities to the places he actually needs to gain support in, like Oswego County, a county President Obama won by seven points in 2012 but Trump won by 23 points in 2016 — the largest swing out of any other county in the state. Cuomo’s upstate results in his 2018 re-election bid would be a real test for his performance with Trump voters in the Rust Belt who Democrats have been able to count on for 30 years but voted against them in November.

Now, that wouldn’t be Cuomo’s only hurdle. He would definitely be attacked for the scale of corruption in the state government that has gone on under his watch, some of it tied to his closest aides. He would also be criticized for START-UP NY, his jobs initiative that has been tainted by illegal activity and has produced lackluster results in a state that is constantly rated as hostile to business. He also currently has a pretty frosty relationship with the Legislature, including members of his own party, hurting his image as a unifier.

Cuomo could also be upstaged by another New Yorker — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand — who has gained a lot of respect in Washington and is also being watched closely as presidential material. Like Cuomo, she is up for re-election in 2018 and maintains that’s the only race she’s concentrating on.

To write a Cuomo 2020 success story, he already has the first few pages written. He has name recognition, both because of his family and by his own means. He has money, easy access to donors and a leftist success record to ride on. Now, there are a lot more pages left to write. But if the White House is on the final page, a page his father never made it to, he is more or less doing what he needs to be doing to get him there.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at

The State of Upstate New York as Trump Country

Why did the president do so well in this region of New York?
And can he deliver?


While Donald Trump didn’t win his home state’s electoral votes in November, he decisively won the upstate region, carrying all but nine counties north of Westchester. As the Trump administration gets underway, many upstate residents are hoping the region could now get the attention and help that they’ve been waiting for for a long time, a region many feel time itself has forgotten about.

Hillary Clinton carried the cities of Albany, Plattsburgh, Syracuse, Ithaca, Rochester and Buffalo, as Democrats usually do, but Trump was able to turn upstate the reddest it’s been in nearly three decades. Just four years ago, Barack Obama was favored all the way between Oswego and Binghamton and between Plattsburgh and Poughkeepsie. Now it’s Trump country. He won Oswego County by 23 points, Niagara County by 19 points, Oneida County by 21 points, Saratoga County by 5 points and Jefferson County by 23 points. He was even able to win Broome County — which includes the city of Binghamton — by 4 points and only lost Erie County — home to Buffalo and upstate’s largest concentration of Democrats — by just 27,000 votes. That’s pretty impressive.

So, why did so many New Yorkers want to make upstate great again? In a word, “jobs.” In four words, “jobs and the economy.”

Trump regularly referenced the region on the campaign trail. At a rally in Iowa, he called upstate New York a “ghost town.” In an interview with WGDJ-AM in Albany, he called it “a death zone” — after he had recently called it “a war zone.” In the second national presidential debate, he called it a “disaster.”

While many have denounced those references in defense of their home territory, there are also many, as voting results would indicate, who don’t think he’s exactly wrong.

Much of the region, particularly the northern, central and western parts of the state, have suffered from economic decline long before the Great Recession began and have been slow to recover after it ended. These parts are made up of Rust Belt communities of disenfranchised working class voters who echo the same frustrations as those in Midwestern cities in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and western Pennsylvania that helped Trump win the Oval Office.

These communities were built on manufacturing jobs, jobs that have gone overseas, to other states or simply vanished. Buffalo’s great steel plant in Lackawanna closed in the early 1980s. Binghamton was the birthplace of IBM until it packed up and left in 2002. Rochester was the birthplace of Kodak and employed 60,000 at its peak in 1984 and filed for bankruptcy in 2012. General Electric in Schenectady now employs just one-tenth of the workers it did 50 years ago. The list goes on and on.

And while there are those who tout the state’s overall improvement in recent years, there’s a reason upstate is frustrated. An August 2015 report from the State Comptroller’s Office found that New York added 538,000 new jobs between 2009 and 2014, but three out of four of those jobs went to New York City. In fact, central New York, the North Country and the Southern Tier all reported a job loss over the same period of time. As of December, 38 of New York’s 62 counties have unemployment rates higher than the national average, 37 of them upstate.

Needless to say, it’s not altogether too surprising Trump’s message on trade deals and bringing manufacturing jobs back resonated with voters here, using as leverage Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate run promise to create 200,000 jobs upstate, a promise that didn’t deliver.

But could he actually bring these jobs back? Most economists would say no. And it’s hard to believe that most of his voters think Trump is going to singlehandedly bring IBM and Kodak back to upstate New York anymore than he is going to make Pittsburgh the steel capital of the world again or make coal overflow from the mines of West Virginia like it once did. Upstate is just never going to be the industrial machine it once was.

But what his voters do believe is that he might be the president who can help it become something again. They don’t feel there’s been much success in plans to replace the region’s empty lots and rusted factories with something that has a future. And they don’t feel the government — in Albany or Washington — is speaking about them when they talk about all the recovery the state has undergone.

And it’s not just workers that feel some ray of hope. A recent Upstate New York Business Leader Survey from the Siena College Research Institute found that 38 percent of respondents in Buffalo believe in the federal government’s ability to improve the business climate in the state over the next year.

Buffalo itself is looking ahead with the SolarCity project currently ongoing that would be North America’s biggest solar panel factory. While Trump would probably prefer to use natural gas resources to create jobs as it has in neighboring Pennsylvania, hydrofracking is banned in New York. His pick for energy secretary, Rick Perry, spent years as governor of Texas growing alternative energy sources. That may help boost Rochester’s exploration into using light to produce energy at the Photonics Manufacturing Institute and the prospects of wind farms off Lake Ontario.

Perhaps Trump’s first and most likely job creator for the region would be his plan for a $1 trillion overhaul of the nation’s infrastructure, something Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Chuck Schumer have acknowledged they could get behind. This comes at a time when 11 percent of the bridges in the state are classified as structurally deficient, 27 percent as functionally obsolete, and as Syracuse considers possibilities of rerouting Interstate-81 throughout the city.

More jobs and a reversal of economic stagnation may help reverse a movement that was probably on the minds of many Trump voters when they cast a ballot for him. They want a reason to stay. New York again made the top three states people moved out of in 2016, ranking behind Illinois and New Jersey. People here want something to look forward to. But a June 2016 report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors that ranks cities by their economic potentials has many upstate cities at the bottom of the list. Of the 381 U.S. metro areas ranked by their economic outlook between 2015 and 2021, Utica-Rome ranked 376; Binghamton 371; Rochester 364; Syracuse 353; Elmira 349, Buffalo-Niagara Falls 344; Kingston 336; Albany-Schenectady-Troy at 324 and so on. If the jobs leave, so do the people. And if the future doesn’t look too great, they will leave sooner than later.

Now, obviously a president by oneself isn’t going to wave a magic wand to help one region or one state. But Trump is a New Yorker, the first president to be so since Franklin Roosevelt. Even though a celebrity billionaire from Fifth Avenue seems like the most unlikely hero for these people, he evidently had his finger on the pulse of this region. Maybe his voters here see upstate as a model for the other regions in the country that are struggling and maybe then a model for how the country can come back. We will just have to wait and see.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at