New York City is often name-checked by conservatives, along with San Francisco, as one of the country's most godlessly liberal cities from which everything that should be opposed by conservatives hails. But at the end of the day for many of the city's residents, the über-liberal New York City is more legend than reality.
For instance, Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) swore on Monday, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy and its Muslim surveillance program are not remotely akin to racial profiling. If one were to believe the rhetoric about New York liberals, one might think that the Congressman -- who will be facing voters less than an hour from Manhattan in less than six months -- had stuck his foot in it. But one would be wrong.
Recent polls show that a majority of New Yorkers -- and especially white New Yorkers -- are in favor of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy, in which anyone deemed suspicious is subject to random searches. That support comes despite the well-publicized fact that African-American and Latino residents made up the overwhelming majority of people stopped and searched last year -- 87 percent -- and those searches netted no weapons in 98 percent of cases. For instance, a New York Daily News poll in April found that 45 percent of New Yorkers supported stop-and-frisk as "legitimate police work" compared to 43 percent who called it "a racially insensitive practice."
A Quinnipiac University poll in March showed results that were even more stark: though their poll showed 46 percent of New Yorkers approved of the practice and 49 percent did not, it was the racial disparities that stood out:
White voters approve [of stop-and-frisk] 59 - 36 percent, while disapproval is 68 - 27 percent among black voters and 52 - 43 percent among Hispanic voters.
And then there is the NYPD's widespread surveillance of Muslim communities, which the police and the mayor originally said were only undertaken if there was suspicion of a crime but which documents proved were focused on Muslim communities in and even outside of the city of New York based on little other than religion. New Yorkers, like Pete King, strongly approve of the NYPD's potentially illegal program. The aforementioned Quinnipiac University poll showed that nearly 60 percent of New Yorkers believe the police "act appropriately in dealing with Muslims" -- though, interestingly, a nearly equal percent claim to have a positive view of Islam. But those results break down differently by race, too.
Racial and partisan gaps are wider: white voters say the NYPD is appropriate 66 - 22 percent, compared to 45 - 41 percent among black voters
Unsurprisingly, 88 percent of New York's Republicans polled believed that the NYPD's actions toward Muslims was appropriate, though 59 percent of self-reported independents and 51 percent of Democrats did as well. The aforementioned New York Daily News poll found that 57 percent of New Yorkers agreed specifically with the NYPD's Muslim surveillance program.
New York hasn't elected a Democratic mayor since 1993: it elected Rudy Giuliani (R) that year by a plurality: reelected him in 1997 by a 55 percent majority; elected then-Republican Michael Bloomberg by a 50.3 percent majority in 2001; reelected Bloomberg as a Republican with a 58.5 percent majority: and then reelected him in violation of long-standing term limits (which he convinced the City Council to overturn) in a majority in 2009. It's the birthplace of the classist, supposedly-ironic-but-not-really, I'm-so-edgy-being-politically-incorrect hipster racism most recently decried during the controversy over the New York-centered show "Girls" and its formerly New York-based, n-word-aficianado, white writer. It's a city in which history and economics lead to obvious, ongoing racial segregation in housing. It is a city in which my friends and (literal) neighbors are apparently targeted for state surveillance based on their religious beliefs, in which a place of worship just blocks from me was vandalized by a criminal who wasn't even charged with a hate crime, in which half of the residents once didn't want a Muslim community center to be built and in which one of Raw Story's reporters, Andrew Jones, was recently stopped by the cops while jogging to the gym based soley on the color of his skin.
Though polls show the city will break heavily for Obama in November, and the vast majority of the city's Congressional delegation is Democratic (though, Rep. Anthony Weiner's former constituents did elect a Republican in his stead), the fact of the matter is that there's no downside for a politician like King to support the NYPD's racist programs -- and, if the polls are to be believed, there's little political downside for Mayor Bloomberg or NYPD Chief Ray Kelly to continue to subject their constituents and the people they swore to protect to such policies. And if that's what counts as "liberal" in America or New York City today, then the word has lost its meaning.
[Ed note: The author lives in New York City.]