“She’s a very sick woman. Sick in the head and sick in the body,” Carl Paladino told the Voice, his mind turning to the prospect of Hillary Clinton as president. “She does not understand the difference between lying and not lying, about being devious and not being devious. She doesn’t understand those things. That’s just terrible. Even the thought of her taking office, it goes against our basic principles.”
If enough New Yorkers thought like Paladino, a Buffalo millionaire who ran for governor six years ago, Donald Trump would “play so hard” for New York State, as he himself put it Wednesday evening at the Conservative Party presidential convention. But they don’t, and Trump has about as much chance of winning the Empire State as he does getting canonized by Pope Francis’ Catholic Church. Poll-conscious Trump probably knows he trails by an average of 19 points, according to RealClearPolitics.
Reality aside, the convention and dinner soiree, in one of the more understated Midtown Marriott Marquis ballrooms, was held to formally grant Trump the Conservative Party nomination. For the right wing die-hards in the room, the irony was quickly swallowed with the chicken breast and penne pasta. Forget fealty to the conservative bedrock the third party was founded on: let’s Make America Great Again!
“He is clearly the most conservative candidate in this race,” said Mike Long, the chairman of the party. “If you’re asking me, was he a movement conservative in his career? No. I think he’s still adopting lots of his issues.”
Founded in 1962 to counteract the liberalism then subsisting in the GOP, the Conservative Party built its brand on tugging the Republicans to the right, and it’s likely the party’s godfathers would find much to revile in a protectionist, isolationist blowhard who wouldn’t know Friedrich von Hayek if he rose from the dead and strutted naked into Mar-a-Lago. By any measure of the party’s fiscal priorities, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, would be ripe for an endorsement, but we all know that’s not how politics works. Trump is the GOP nominee and he’s not Clinton, and that was good enough for the hundred or so mostly elderly attendees.
One of the younger participants, failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino, pitched himself as a Reagan conservative out of the Club for Growth playbook two years ago. Now plotting another run for higher office, Astorino, the Westchester County executive, was grinning in the ballroom, trying to pretend Trump was the guy he wanted all along.
“There are issues he’s evolved on and that’s good. I mean, there’s room in the Conservative Party just as there’s room in the Republican Party for different points of view,” he said, apologetically spreading his arms. “You know, he is the candidate. We are where we are.”
Trump’s speech, lasting around twenty minutes, was boilerplate Trump. Circuitous and self-aggrandizing, Trump bragged again about refurbishing Wollman Rink in Ed Koch’s New York, proving that the 1980’s can’t truly die. Like African Americans, upstate New Yorkers are in desperate need of Trump’s paternalism: “It’s so sad, when I toured the state during the primaries, and I got to see every part of the state,” the Queens native said. “I saw those great, beautiful buildings that were empty and rotting and falling down from the wind and the rain and the snow and they’re all over the state. And there’s no hope. There’s no hope other than if I become president, because there will be great hope.”
Trump, frequently fact-challenged, was right about one thing: he is the real New Yorker in the race. A Jamaica Estates product with an authentic outer borough accent, he was the city’s demented 20th century id holding reality hostage. Clinton, by way of Arkansas and Illinois, could at best approximate the genteel suburbs.
“I’m a real New Yorker, folks,” Trump boasted. “I will say this, you will never get more of a New Yorker, if you want a president, than you’re getting with me.”