If the Trump indictment is a national tragedy, a trial on Staten Island would be a complete farce.
Yet the famously conservative borough’s congresswoman, Nicole Malliotakis, has already called for such a move, while the former president himself dubbed Manhattan “a very unfair venue.”
Cue the standard jokes about garbage dumps, funny accents, and Mafia goombahs.
But there’s a serious immigration lesson smug Democrats may be overlooking here.
Take College of Staten Island professor Sarah Schulman.
For two decades, she “consistently had police officers, their partners, and their children as my students. Most were Italian American or Irish American,” she wrote in the brainy New York Review of Books a few weeks back.
When Eric Garner was killed after a confrontation with Staten Island cops in 2014, Shulman was compelled to address the controversial topic.
“To my surprise,” she writes, “not only the white but also the Latino and Asian students connected to the police were unanimous in their defense of the cops.”
I, too, have taught classes at the College of Staten Island. It’s actually where I earned my undergraduate degrees.
To be so surprised by these Staten Islanders’ opinions, no matter what their background, points to a bigger problem.
For decades, certain Americans have been gloating that the country’s “changing demographics” were going to drive Republicans into extinction. The logic seemed irrefutable.
White folks – from the Verrazano Bridge to Ventura Beach – were all the same, uniformly and incurably stupid. Just as all non-white folks must be uniformly open-minded and progressive.
Such thinking actually represents the entire premise of a new novel by the “most celebrated science fiction and fantasy writer of her generation,” according to The New York Times.
The World We Make, N.K. Jemisin’s latest in a New York City series, revolves around the daughter of a Staten Island Irish cop named Aislyn Houlihan. She goes up against a gay African American named Manny (as in Manhattan), a Bronx lesbian with Lenape roots named “Bronca,” and a math whiz from Queens named Padmini Prakash.
Jemisin, a Guggenheim “genius” grant winner, writes books that are the “essence of New York City come to life,” according to Harvard’s Stephanie Burt, who noted in one review that The World We Make begins “with a literal cloud of toxic demonic whiteness hovering over Staten Island.”
Subtle, this is not.
So it must have been downright shocking for these folks to see last month’s New York Times report entitled: “Asian Americans, Shifting Right,” about increasingly conservative immigrant voters in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. CNN ran a similar story about California voting patterns two weeks ago.
Could it be that Staten Island actually has something to teach the Ivy Leaguers and Guggenheim winners?
These very people, who proudly (and loudly) stand up in defense of 21st-century immigrants, look down their noses at the children and grandchildren of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, or Poland.
It’s as if they also want to “build a wall” – just in 1923, rather than 2023.
The truth is, America’s demographics are not changing much more than they always have. And what the Times calls the “new politics of class in America,” really isn't all that new.
Not long ago, political experts assumed working-class Irish Americans would be loyal Democrats for generations. Just as Schulman assumed her Asian and Latino students would condemn police brutality.
To this day, because of complex historical factors, Staten Island actually has more registered Democrats than Republicans.
So why is it so hard for progressives to grasp that recent immigrants will likely go through a similar process?
Doing so would not change the fact that Donald Trump is a demagogue, and the MAGA movement is ill-informed and dangerous.
But for a group of people who preach about the importance of history, liberals are awfully selective about the parts of the past that matter.
And for a group of people who talk about fluidity and intersectionality, they see race and immigration in very rigid, very binary ways.
(On Twitter and Instagram: @tomdeignan)