Like many who come to Brooklyn, Hillary Clinton wanted to cash in on its image when she made the borough her presidential campaign headquarters, yet she’s only been there a few times. Above is an anti-Hillary poster seen near her Brooklyn Heights office. (© Richard Levine/Demotix/Corbis photo)
Because she likely won’t be there, anyone planning to stakeout Hillary Clinton’s Brooklyn campaign headquarters for a glimpse of the 2016 presidential candidate will be disappointed.
Clinton’s infrequent appearances at her well-publicized Brooklyn Heights headquarters show that she, like many others who have flirted with the borough only to eventually move elsewhere, simply wanted to gin up her image with a bit of the borough’s contemporary cache.
In April, to accompany the official declaration of her 2016 presidential run, Clinton’s team shot an official announcement video that featured the borough’s streets and made a big deal about her HQ being in Brooklyn. Following these come-hither looks, however, Clinton has summarily dissed Kings County. After her announcement and the video, Clinton has visited her Brooklyn staffers just once. She actually spends all of her time at the must-be greener fundraising pastures of her Midtown Manhattan digs when in New York, where she keeps her personal offices and most of the work for the 2016 run is really being done.
Through her come-ons to the borough, Clinton has now joined the likes of multitudes who have dated, but never meant to marry Brooklyn. As a native Brooklynite, I’ve seen this too many times to even recall. People move here briefly and then talk about how much the experience, however short, inspired them. Or people live here for a bit and start suddenly claiming they are from the city, which is fine, of course, until someone asks where they went to high school.
But in my lifetime, the clear attempt by the Clinton campaign to earn political points by association with Brooklyn is a first.
Today, and for years since Brooklyn suddenly became nationally cool, young college graduates have used New York’s most populous borough — if they can still afford to live there — as post-graduate study in how to keep the keg party going into their middle and late 20s. Clinton likely won’t be attending any rooftop parties in Bushwick, hanging out with the handlebar-mustache crowd, slurping vegan lattes with the organic mafia or going to see any indie-rock bands in the borough, but there are certainly things she could do to pay some respect to Brooklyn, which would also lend some legitimacy to her campaign being headquartered there. It might not earn her much political clout, but at least she would be making an effort to connect.
Come on, Hillary, just forgo the diet for a day or two and enjoy a pastrami or corned beef sandwich with fries followed by a piece of Junior’s famous cheesecake. I can promise you that no one — except possibly Fox News — will call you plump in those pantsuits. Instead of fully courting Brooklyn’s traditions or its contemporary coolness, Clinton wants the cache without doing any of the work.
For her Republican critics, Clinton’s wooing of Brooklyn and her subsequent not showing up on the first date is way down the list of things she will be criticized for. Far more important to Clinton’s campaign is the image that she is creating in the minds of Democratic voters. Even with the number of residents who can afford a multi-million dollar brownstone or luxury apartments skyrocketing, Brooklyn remains a bastion of progressivism. Why, then, has Clinton not embraced the borough more?
Unfortunately, the answer is quite simple. It’s because Clinton is a phony. Just like all the post-college partiers, wannabe writers, painters and artists who moved to Bushwick last year and then about a week later began complaining, “Man, the neighborhood has really changed so much since I got here,” Clinton wants the image more than realizing the substance of this adopted home.
Being a New Yorker means sometimes getting dirty, but Clinton wants to avoid any and all controversy throughout her presidential campaign. It’s a shame that she clearly doesn’t see being headquartered in Brooklyn, one of the most diverse places in the world, as an opportunity to connect with voters. Instead of using this as a chance to connect with middle- and working-class voters who are employed at nearby courthouses, restaurants and government buildings, Clinton has thus far only used Brooklyn as an image builder to be quickly discarded when no longer useful.
I’m not suggesting that Clinton begin only buying locally sourced organic produce from food co-ops and flea markets or become a hip-hop head, but in Brooklyn when someone says they will do something they’d better do it. Many long-time residents, in addition to those born and raised there hold words as a bond. If she really meant to extol the virtues of her adopted home and not become just another carpetbagger driving up rents, maybe she should actually spend some time in what, on its own, would be one of America’s largest cities.
Before it’s too late, Clinton can reverse this mark against her. All she has to do is get on the subway to Brooklyn — who am I kidding, she will take a taxi or Town Car — and discover its many charms, the diversity of its population and earn political points the old-fashioned way. By glad-handing her way around the borough, Clinton can win over Brooklyn and maybe even some progressive voters, but she needs to actually meet them and discuss the issues important to a majority of the borough’s residents who don’t have seven figures to spend on a house for their families.
But by eschewing the borough for a neighboring one and avoiding its voters, she will only dig a deeper hole for herself. But if Clinton and her aides believe merely showing up a couple times to pay lip service to Brooklyn is enough, I’ve a got a bridge a few blocks from her offices she might want to buy.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.