In mid-Manhattan’s battle between two stalwarts of the senescent wing of the Democrat Party, Jerry Nadler handily triumphed over his old ally and fellow House veteran Carolyn Maloney, comfortably beating her and three-time also-ran Suraj Patel. Both elected to Congress during the final months of the Bush Administration — the first one, that is, in 1992 — Nadler and Maloney have marched in near-lockstep as faithful representatives of High Boomerism.
How did it come to pass that these good soldiers — two veteran congress members, both born early in the Truman presidency, as alike ideologically as two halves of a buttered bagel — were forced to confront each other in a battle as fierce and as devoid of substance as any the New York Democratic Party has ever seen…at least since Elizabeth Holtzman unseated Emanuel Cellar (born 1888) in 1972?
Democratic politics and ideology in New York City are so uniform that the candidates, asked during a debate to draw distinctions between themselves, could barely come up with anything significant that happened in the last 20 years. “Carolyn voted for the Iraq War, and I voted against it,” Nadler mused. For her part, Maloney acknowledged that she and Nadler were equally liberal — only she was “more effective,” or better at it.
When Patel accused Maloney of having sponsored a 2005 bill to regulate post office pension funding, Nadler rose gallantly to her defense, though only in a manner of speaking, of course — he spent the entire debate sitting down, while his opponents stood. “I just want to say that Carolyn is entirely right about the 2005 bill,” Nadler affirmed.
Much has been made of how Nadler and Maloney’s dear friendship was twisted by the fires of contention, though some in the know scoff at the idea that there was much love lost between the two. “It’s not like they were taking baths together as children,” one well-placed Manhattan Dem observed.
While we pause to dwell on that image, or to erase it from memory, consider how, without much in the way of substance to distinguish Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee from each other, they both had to rely on style to appeal to the voters.
And talk about style! Representative Nadler famously struggled with his weight for many years before undergoing bariatric surgery in 2002. “I tried the liquid diets. I tried Fen-Phen, the drugs. I tried Weight Watchers. I went to Duke University — its weight-reduction program, stayed there for months,” confessed the portly Nadler to CNN. And who can blame him for trying?
These days, Nadler wears his reduced frame like a loose garment, draped in even looser suits, the pants of which he frequently seems to wear at nipple-height. Often resembling the Three Stooges’ slobbier, less talented fourth brother, Nadler is like the Clown Prince of Congress. When he isn’t falling asleep at hearings, he’s bragging about having “impeached Bush twice,” edging crab-wise off the podium at press conferences, or saying that Antifa violence is a “myth.”
Nadler, 75, cited his role as the chair of the Judiciary Committee in the two (failed) impeachments of Donald Trump as the highlight of his 30 years in office. But he downplayed his many missteps and fumbles in that role. After accusing the Republican senators of “treachery” in the first impeachment trial, he was shunted aside by Nancy Pelosi in favor of Adam Schiff to lead the charge. Clearly nowhere near the top — or even halfway up the slope — of his game, Nadler has become the butt of viral tweets showcasing his befuddlement and perplexity.
Maloney, 76, provided an excellent, irreplaceable foil for Nadler, at least for comedic purposes. With her unlocatable accent — North Carolina Piedmont squeezed violently through Lenox Hill Lockjaw — her permanent skull-grin, and her “say anything” loquacity, Carolyn Maloney has provided her constituents with great entertainment value over the years.
She wore a full burqa to the floor of the House a month after 9/11 in support of…well, it’s not clear what. She developed a crush on a panda after a trip to China in 2014, when Han Han the bear held her hand as he munched on some tasty bamboo. She became fixated on leasing a Chinese panda to display at the Central Park Zoo, though the zookeepers begged her to cease her campaign.
She called Nadler “half-dead,” and “senile,” and insinuated that he wouldn’t make it through another term of office. She said flat-out that Biden won’t be running for re-election during a televised debate, then back-tracked and apologized, then told the New York Times editorial board the same thing. She claimed she had received “death threats from the NRA.”
In 2009, when she was thinking about running for senate against Kirsten Gillibrand, she said that Gillibrand’s proposal for English-only instruction in Puerto Rico was tantamount to “saying [the N-word] to a Puerto Rican.” She defended herself by explaining she was quoting a Puerto Rican who told her this. “I don’t know if that’s true or not…I’m just throwing that out.” That ended her senate run.
If everything had gone as planned, Nadler v. Maloney never would have had to happen. New York State is firmly controlled by the Democrats at every significant level, and everyone knows what the point of such overwhelming political domination is: to ensure the re-election of all incumbents!
Having taken total control of Albany in 2018, the Dems redistricted the entire state to eliminate the chance of Republican victories. By all accounts, Nadler and Maloney dug elbows-deep into the dirty work of gerrymandering their districts to make them as personally favorable as possible.
But the Dems went too far. Their vision of New York painted royal blue was thwarted by the courts, which pointed out that the nakedly partisan scheme violated the state constitution. Instead of a cake for all the incumbents to stuff themselves on, a “special master” drew up a new map that aimed to be — those filthy words — neutral and non-partisan.
The result was that Nadler’s original district — which resembled two copulating worms doing yoga, stretching from the Upper West Side to Borough Park — was disassembled, and merged with the western half of Maloney’s district to form a sensible, discrete, and quadrilateral new district comprising central Manhattan.
It’s all over now. Jerry Nadler, the Svengali of the Zabar’s set, has vanquished his twin and frenemy Maloney, who will have a dickens of a time cleaning out her office, stuffed with memorabilia from the first Clinton administration, and all those panda knickknacks. Meanwhile, Nadler can loosen his suspenders and take his final victory nap. He has won.