In a city that has a 5-1 ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans, both journalists and New Yorkers have asked whether holding the Grand Old Party?s 2004 convention here was such a good idea. In polls, surveys, anecdotal remarks and more, many New Yorkers say they wished the Republicans had gone somewhere else. Other residents of the ?Big Apple?, as New York is known, have taken it upon themselves to educate Republican delegates from the South, Midwest, and Mountain States, about Broadway, delicatessens, and cabbies.
Never mind that delegates from all these places have vibrant cultures and distinct cuisines of their own. Disregard the fact that most of the 4,489 delegates and alternates here are educated and can tell a bagel from a bialy, or a knish from a kimchee. Still, those New Yorkers who are here feel as if they?re on a mission to show off their town to the rest of America who come from places where people shake their heads at the antics and attitudes of the Big Apple. New Yorkers may never admit it, but in that sense, they are the epitome of any other small-town boosters in the United States who extol the virtues of their city to anyone and everyone who will listen. They may complain and whine about garbage in the street, the high cost of living, and the latest street closings, but let anybody else do it, and watch out! Civic pride hath no fury like a New Yorker fully unleashed.
That pride, and the remembrance of when everyone in the country extended their hearts and open arms to New York after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was on full display during last night?s session of the Republican National Convention. Obviously the theme of the terrorist attacks is front and center in both our major parties? conventions, but here in New York itself, it is personal?very personal. For the nine million plus residents of the city, it was not something they saw on the evening news or read about in newspapers, they experienced it?they remembered it?they saw it?they lived it. At a time when many people around the world are asking when America will ?get over? 9-11, New Yorkers would certainly answer (in frank language): Never!
The delegates here were learning that about New Yorkers last night, and during the evening session in Madison Square Garden, one could be excused if they thought that the conservatives from Texas, the flat tax advocates from Illinois, and the military supporters from New Mexico all became honorary New Yorkers. And nowhere was that more evident than in the response to the convention address by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. ?Rudy? spoke for more than an hour last night and held the delegates in the palm of his hand, using big city humor, broad body language, and facial gestures that are more at home on the subway than in a convention speech.
He peppered his address with references to places familiar to New Yorkers, but made it universal to his out of town audience. He spoke from the heart about what the terrorist attacks meant to the city and to him personally. People of good will can certainly debate whether or not the administration?s policies are the correct ones, but last night, Mayor Giuliani put into stark human terms what New Yorkers experienced on September 11, 2001. The delegates responded with several standing ovations, laughs, cheers, and if you looked hard enough, a tear or two trickling slowly down a glistening cheek.
The cynical political analysts here are already handicapping the 2008 Republican presidential race, and Mayor Giuliani?s name is prominent among the early front-runners. He comes across like a New Yorker with opinions who often clashes with the rank and file of a party now anchored in the South and West. And that is, in fact, who he is. Rudy become the nominee of the present day GOP? As they say in New York, fuhgedaboutit! (translated means: don?t even think it could come to pass).
But stranger things have happened in politics. Of the speakers so far, the former mayor of New York has been the one who has touched directly the hearts and minds of the assembled delegates. And given the response from his audience, I would bet we haven?t heard the last of Rudolph Giuliani on the campaign trail this year.
The other front runners?there are about a dozen mentioned at this date?should remember the last lines of the New York, New York song played at the end of the evening session on Monday (and played almost anytime New York celebrates something): "... if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere....?
Rudy?s already made it here, and last night he took a giant step to making it happen elsewhere, if he so chooses. Again, that?s another reason why conventions are important.