Four years ago, the line of voters at my local polling station on the Upper East Side of Manhattan snaked around at least two or three blocks, suggesting massive interest in the election between Barack Obama and John McCain.
That 2008 election – during the cusp of the devastating housing/financial crisis – went to Obama, of course, with New York playing a huge part in the Democrat's triumph. Indeed, at the time Obama gained something like 62 percent of the electorate in New York State as a whole – but won an astounding 85 percent of the vote in Manhattan (with somewhat similar numbers in Brooklyn and the Bronx).
However, this go-around, the lines seemed a bit shorter at my polling station – perhaps partially due to the bitter freezing weather, but also because I went mid-morning, thereby missing all the commuters who cast their ballots prior to going to work.
Obama is likely to score big again in New York (this is after all the "bluest" city in a very "blue" state), but perhaps not by the overwhelming margin of victory he gained in 2008.
As I watched my fellow Upper East Siders wait to pick their candidate, it occurred to me how this neighborhood is misunderstood by outsiders. Famously known as the "Silk Stocking District," the Upper East Side is not really the bastion of wealth and privilege of popular imagination.
This area is filled with elderly people living on fixed incomes, struggling middle-class families, poor immigrants and working-class Hispanics and African-Americans (all demographics favored to vote Democratic).
The few people who would speak to me indicated that jobs and the economy are at the forefront of their concerns – foreign wars, immigration, abortion, gay marriage do not appear to be of great importance now. The elderly people I encountered (some in wheelchairs and walkers) are likely worried about Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's proposed overhaul of Medicare.
At any rate, the Romney-Ryan won't get much support here – in fact, I didn't see a single person wearing a GOP button.
But, even if almost all these people will vote for Obama, something is "missing" – there seems to be no enthusiasm left for the president (not after four years of a still-sluggish national economy). In contrast, a veritable "party mood" pervaded during the 2008 vote – back then Obama backers came out in droves with expectant smiles on their faces.
Now, that ebullience has been replaced by a sense of gloom and weariness – that perhaps Obama is simply the "lesser of two evils."