Politics & Policy

How to Turn New York Red

Keith Hernandez at a Mets-Cubs game in New York, October 17, 2015. (Getty Images)
The Trump rebellion has been a nightmare for Republicans, but it could have an upside.

For NR readers and conservatives everywhere, it’s been a rough primary week. Maybe Rubio will still pull it out. Maybe he’ll fall on his sword and endorse Cruz. Maybe we’ll all learn to love Trump. Whatever happens, there are sleepless nights and heartburn ahead.

But there is one upside at least to the Trump rebellion: He’s attracting a lot of blue-collar Democrats. So many that serious people are seriously discussing the possibility of Democratic “blue wall” states breaking for the GOP in November — industrial states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, maybe even Massachusetts. Even better: Last week, the New York Post reported that “confidential polling data” showed that, against Hillary, Trump could win New York.

Imagine for a moment that, this November, New York and its 29 electoral votes are in play for the first time since ’88. Imagine, then, Republicans seriously fighting for one of New York’s Senate seats for the first time since Hillary beat Rick Lazio in 2000. Republican bête noire Chuck Schumer is up for re-election in 2016, and if everything breaks right, there’s an outside chance a Republican could beat him.

Warms the cockles of your heart, doesn’t it?

Chuck Schumer won his last Senate race with 65 percent of the vote. For beating him to be in the realm of possibility, two things would have to happen: There would have to be a surge of working-class Democratic support for the GOP’s presidential nominee, and the GOP would have to find someone to run against Schumer who had comparable cross-aisle appeal.

Happily, New York Republicans have the very man: beloved former Met, current Mets broadcaster, and Seinfeld cultural icon Keith Hernandez.

Now, I have no idea if Mr. Hernandez has any interest in public office. But he is interested in politics — enough to have endorsed “Thatcheresque” Carly Fiorina to the New York Times, and to have joked during a Mets game last season that a tongue-tied colleague sounded like “Hillary Clinton on the stump.” And he’s conservative enough for the Village Voice’s Wayne Barrett to have called him an “idiot” with “dinosaur politics” for not knowing that April 22 was Earth Day (a holiday that’s “celebrated by nearly a billion people across the globe,” don’t you know).

In fact, Nixon was a big Keith Hernandez fan, and on occasion the two met for lunch and chatted about Russia and China and baseball.

Hernandez with Jerry Seinfeld in 2005 (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

And if you watch the Mets — for whom Mr. Hernandez does color commentary — you know that he’s very sharp. I imagine he’s the only sports broadcaster ever to have joked on-air that a long coat made someone look like Hamid Karzai. During a slow game, after a discussion of Hall of Fame pitcher Zack Wheat turned to wheat, the grain, Hernandez casually mentioned that Rome’s desire to control Egypt’s wheat fields had been the catalyst for the creation of the Roman province Aegyptus. During a digression into college basketball, Hernandez’s fellow Mets color guy, former Mets pitcher Ron Darling, said he knew nothing about Indiana. Hernandez said, “It’s in the Midwest.”

Hernandez was an MVP, a five-time All-Star, and a two-time world champion. Between his Mets career and his Seinfeld episodes, I reckon that he’s the most popular sports alumnus in New York after Derek Jeter. He’s well spoken but notably free of political correctness (as the Village Voice pointed out, he once made a joke about “union labor” when the Mets’ cameras picked out a construction worker eating a sandwich). And, to boot: Spring training has begun. The Mets are the favorite to win their division and might, God willing, make it back to the World Series. Imagine the groundswell of Mets enthusiasm if they win the fall classic in the first week of November, just as New Yorkers are warming up to choose a new senator on November 8. Kismet.

Convincing any red-blooded American to give up a career as a professional baseball-talker to run against Chuck Schumer would be a hard sell. But if the Republicans could pull it off, it might mean the best Senate result since John Thune knocked off Tom Daschle.

Anyway, it’s a thought to keep the spirits up.

Josh GelernterJosh Gelernter is a former columnist for NRO, and a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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