Subscribe to the IHARE Blog

Election Results: Amazon versus Hallmark

Amazon decided to locate its new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, New York, and Alexandria, Virginia. These two locations possess the characteristics Amazon considers desirable.  They have highly educated and mobile workforces. They are located at both national and international transportation hubs. They have significant other business sectors so Amazon will not be the 600 pound gorilla that everyone turns towards to solve local problems. They have an excitement about them: people want to move there. The bottom line is that the midsize cities of mid-America simply do not have the base to support the Amazon behemoth. The other major cities simply do not have the resources or the proximity to the politicians and regulators Amazon needs to buy and sell.

As it turns out, Amazon probably would have chosen these two locations even if there had been no government prostitution. Other communities made more lucrative offers but they could not match the actual requirements for a successful match. For all we know, Amazon may well have been leaning towards these two winning locations even before the search began even if they it never consciously acknowledged it to itself yet alone to the public. In the meantime, Amazon gathered a great deal of information about a multitude of sites throughout the country that will be useful.

One cannot help but notice that the desirable characteristics for Amazon coincide with the burgeoning demographic areas of the Democratic Party. By contrast Republican areas were not even in the running.

Politically, Amazon’s choice in New York will not make much difference. New York already is a democratic state. Republicans have no chance of winning any statewide election. At the state level success for a Republican is obtaining 40% of the vote. Its last hold in power, the State Senate, witnessed an eight seat drop this past election. Instead of vying for majority power it has had for roughly 75 years with some breaks, Republicans now are an also-ran with little if any power to do anything if the Democrats are united. Even without Amazon, the 2020 census is likely to accelerate this trend as the one-party city itself and the Democratic suburb offshoots gain in power. In the reapportioning, the Republicans are likely to lose even more of what little they have left at the federal and state level.

The situation is a little different in Virginia. Republicans still have no chance of winning a statewide election there but the margins are not as stark as in New York. Part of the difference is due to one-party Washington, D.C. not being in the state of Virginia the way one-party New York City is in New York. As the Washington suburbs served by the Metro continue to expand especially with Amazon, the state will become more and more Democratic. It will not take a coin toss anymore to determine who is in power in the legislature. Republicans in Virginia will be restricted to the rural non-growth areas. The biggest difference from New York is where upstate New Yorkers retire to the South, rural Virginians are already there.  Amazon is quite willing to sell to these people but it would not want to locate there.

Hallmark’s audience is quite different from Amazon’s. The Hallmark movie universe tends to be the rural one with mainly white Christians, probably Protestants. If the city is involved, such as New York, it is the place the hero/heroine leaves. They either return home to be reconnected with their loved ones and to save the family home/store/factory. They tend to be in their thirties so they may have known some success in the big city but it comes with a price to their soul and happiness. They regain their soul when they return to the place where everyone says “Merry Christmas” and the community lighting of the Christmas tree is a big deal…unlike say in New York City where Rockefeller Center is devoid of all signs of Christmas and no families are present!

If they are not from the rural paradise and are the mean person sent there to shut it down or buy the store/factory/inn, then they soon succumb to its charms for its money they have and peace they lack. Hallmark could tell big city-based Christmas stories but they are the exception not the rule despite their being where the American people live.

And if there is not a rural American paradise to which to return, then there is always a small kingdom in Europe that no one has ever heard of desperate for an American princess. Considering the real stories of not only Grace Kelly but Meghan Markle, it turns out that fairy tales can come true.

Still the Hallmark world has an attraction to the Amazon world but only a part-time basis. People in the city buy second homes but rarely in another city. Someone in New York does not buy a second home in the Boston or Philadelphia area. They may visit a child in college in those cities but for a second home for weekends, summer, and maybe retirement, they often chose the Hallmark world. Excluding the glitzy Hamptons, many New Yorkers choose to go north to the Hudson Valley, the Catkskills, the Berkshires, and beyond. They want land, they want space, they want peace and quiet as long as they can go to Starbucks and get the delicacies and entertainment they want. These people do not want to live in Mayberry, Bedford Falls, or Cicely, Alaska. It’s nice to leave the rat race and visit Brigadoon every now and then. They need the Field of Dreams but only for a moment.

Did you ever notice how popular and important Friday Night Lights was for people who did not live in a Friday Night Lights community? A Friday Nights Light community is a Hallmark community with more realism. It does have conflicts. It does have tensions. It does have rivalries with similar neighboring communities. But unlike the Hallmark communities, the Friday Night Lights communities gather together every Friday and not just once a year. In these communities, the people have their community songs, their community flags and banners, their community traditions, and a community spirit that is passed on from generation to generation. If you buy a second home in such a community you will be an outsider even if your city money enables you to throw your weight around. This separateness especially will be true if you have no kids attending the local schools.

In this regard, a Friday Nights Light community is like a Jane Jacobs city block or street. The social fabric is strong. People have a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a sense of community. These are not the characteristics of an Amazon community. The people who move to the big cities in other states have limited connection to the history of that state, that city, that community. Here in New York we are celebrating the bicentennial of the building of the Erie Canal. That project put New York on the national map on its way to becoming the world capital. That project launched a can do period in American history that lasted until we placed a man on the moon. Yet today the Erie Canal has no meaning to the people of the city. It remains an underutilized asset of American history in upstate New York of little interest to people in downstate New York. They would sooner visit the canals of Europe than those of New York.

The fate of the Erie Canal story highlights the shortcomings of the piecemeal approach. America has a big story to tell. What the two political parties have in common is that neither is trying to tell it. No candidate proposes a vision for We the People of the 21st century and the less said about our shallow, superficial, simple-minded President the better. Clearly there is a need for such a vision. Clearly there is a need for such a storyteller. Clearly there is a need to connect America’s citizens to the story of their country. In 1976, my father temporarily relocated to Washington, D.C., and bunked with Congressmen to reduce living expenses when he worked on the Bicentennial. In July 2016, the United States Semiquincentennial Commission was established in preparation for the 250th anniversary of the United States. It will occur on July 4, 2026, the bicentennials of the deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4. Will we be a united country then or will the experiment have run its course?

Hamilton: The Broadway Musical Debuts

Last  Monday I attended the Broadway opening of Hamilton, the musical. I was really looking forward to the event. The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society was out in force.

The opening was particularly auspicious coming one day after the anniversary of Hamilton’s death in 1804. Continue reading “Hamilton: The Broadway Musical Debuts”

Memories of the Way We Were and Are

Long time readers of my posts may recall the importance of Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl.” Her explanation of how she originated the idea for the corporate merger is a classic expression of the serendipity of the unexpected juxtaposition leading to thinking.

The eureka moment occurs not when one expects it but when things click in one’s mind. That’s why I enjoy thumbing through a newspaper rather than simply extracting predetermined information from the web – you never know what connections will be made…nor do the editors of the newspaper who are examining each article in isolation. Continue reading “Memories of the Way We Were and Are”

Ground Zero: Cosmic Center for the 21st Century

My quest to come to grips with the legacy of 9/11 in this series of posts draws to a close with this one. So far I have been examining the ways in which we remember those of who have died, the different circumstances in which people do die, and the changing ways through which the legacy of those who have fallen in battle have been remembered and forgotten.

I have been reminded of the loss of memory, or at least its diminishment over time through some recent events. First there have been a series of posts about America’s first 9/11, the Battle of Plattsburgh during the War of 1812. For the British, it is not a war they forgot since it never was one they remembered. For America, especially New York, it shows how easily deaths can be forgotten and even victories can vanish. Continue reading “Ground Zero: Cosmic Center for the 21st Century”

Remembering 9/11: Visiting the Memorial Plaza

Over the past few weeks, I have had two occasions to visit the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. The first was at the invitation of City Wonders Tours, a tour company seeking to promote its tour.

The second was following the memorial service to Alexander Hamilton by the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society at nearby Trinity Church, the final stop of the City Wonders tour. The following comments are based on these visits. Continue reading “Remembering 9/11: Visiting the Memorial Plaza”

Remembering 9/11: From City on a Hill to Ground Zero

When John Winthrop was setting sail for America, he delivered a lay sermon which would become a foundational text for the American Civil Religion. Drawing on the Book of Matthew, he spoke of a “city on a hill” that the eyes of the world would be upon.

There is a longstanding idolizing of the city in human culture. This exaltation derives from ancient Mesopotamia, the first builders of major cities. The famous Epic of Gilgamesh, begins with a paean to the walls of the city he ruled. At the end of epic, with Gilgamesh’s adventures completed and his quest for immortality over, he returns to those same city walls with the insight that while the body is not immortal, the walls of the city are. In this ancient epic, when Gilgamesh clicks his heels three times and realizes there is no place like home, it is to the city to which he returns. Continue reading “Remembering 9/11: From City on a Hill to Ground Zero”

Heritage Tourism and Immigration in New York State

Immigration has always been an important part of New York history. If one considers the story of the state from the Ice Age to Global Warming, then we and/or our ancestors all arrived here from somewhere else. Even if we were born an American and reside here now we may not have been born in New York. And if we were born in New York, we may not now live in the community where we were born or grew up. People move around a lot. How often do you hear the story of someone who has only been a resident of the community for 10, 20, 30 years and is still considered a newcomer?

Telling the story of immigration in New York provides an opportunity for us to connect with the world. What country doesn’t have residents in this state? So here is an opportunity for New York to tell the story about what it means to be a New Yorker by examining the lives of people who became New Yorkers. Continue reading “Heritage Tourism and Immigration in New York State”

The Queens State of History

Where is the U.S. (Tennis) Open played? The tournament is located in the borough of Queens but people are more likely to think Flushing. The Brooklyn Dodgers and the Bronx Bombers are named or nicknamed for their borough, the Mets and the Jets (when they were in New York) are not. Letters to New York have borough names in the mailing address except for Queens. They are addressed to Forest Hills where the U.S. Open used to be played or to Astoria, Bayside, Long Island City and so on.

At a recent conference on Quintessential Queens held at Queens College, former Queens resident Nicole Steinberg, in a talk entitled “Many a Neighborhood – Astoria to the Rockaways”, identified 74 different neighborhoods in the borough. While all of them might not have their own postal address, the large number highlights the problems: people in the borough may identify with their neighborhood the same way someone outside New York City identifies with a village, town or city and not with their county. In other words, Queens has an identity problem. Continue reading “The Queens State of History”

The Bronx State of History

What is the Bronx state of history? Despite its long history, it is only 100 years ago when it was officially recognized as a county in New York State. Bronx County Historical Society educator Angel Hernandez will speak on the early history of The Bronx through its achieving county status on March 29 at The Bronx Archives Building.

On April 9, The Bronx County Historical Society will present an exhibition at the Museum of Bronx History titled “Bronx County – 100 Years.” One notes that this recognition of county status occurred subsequent to the creation of the expanded New York City. Continue reading “The Bronx State of History”

Resurrecting the NY Freedom Trail

The wheel is about to be reinvented. In response to an earlier post on the State Tourism Advisory Council, Rosemary Vietor wrote the following comment:

Peter – Perhaps you saw the article in yesterday’s WSJ NY section on the underground railroad (not precise title) tourism sites proposed for Manhattan. It is an effort to link those sites (most of which no longer exist) into a walking tour. There has been for a number of years a similar effort in Flushing, the Flushing Freedom Mile. It links sites such as the Quaker Meeting House, Bowne House and others. There are markers so one can do this tour. Here is a great example of what might be done to increase history tourism – link both sites and others around the city. Why is this not done? It’s so obvious. As for Mystic Seaport, I can tell you from involvement there that CT has long recognized the importance of history and tourism and has devoted substantial funds to those efforts. New York seems indifferent at best. NY Culture. Continue reading “Resurrecting the NY Freedom Trail”