Hillary Clinton may win New York votes, but not New York hearts

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The Independent US

As people hurried up and down the length of New York’s Wall Street, two men stopped to give their thoughts on Hillary Clinton. Both thought she is going to become America’s next president, but they also said they struggled to connect with her.

“She’s definitely the most popular and I think she’s going to win,” Anthony C, 27, told The Independent. “But she doesn’t have a personal thing with people, I feel like Bernie does.”

Pasha F, 31, who used to work with the homeless in New York, echoed the sentiment, adding that he felt Ms Clinton was a “puppet” to the financial institutions. “I don’t think her main issues support a lot of everyday, American people,” he said. “She tries to connect with them, but it feels generic.” 

Pasha F and Anthony C talk politics on New York's Wall Street Feliks Garcia

Ms Clinton and Bernie Sanders are fighting for a decisive victory in their home state as the Democratic primary in New York approaches. The state plays a key role in each candidate’s biography: Mr Sanders a Brooklyn native; Ms Clinton served as US Senator for two terms and claims it as her place of residency. 

Thus, New York is serving as an intense battleground state, as Mr Sanders hopes to continue his forward momentum, and Ms Clinton aims to lay the Vermont senator’s campaign to rest. 

According to numbers from RealClear Politics, Ms Clinton has a commanding lead in New York, with an average of 14 points over her rival. Much of her favour in the state’s de facto capital, New York City, is attributed by pundits and pollsters to two seemingly contradictory contingents: the money of Wall Street and voters from the historically black neighbourhood of Harlem. 

But Ms Clinton is not actually from New York – despite her establishing residency in Chappaqua, a suburb just north of Manhattan, 16 years ago. Ms Clinton was born Chicago, Illinois, raised in the Park Ridge suburb. She was educated at Wellesley and Yale, both New England schools, before working in Cambridge, Massachusetts, moved to Arkansas in the 1970s, before ultimately moving to Washington DC once her husband, Bill Clinton, was elected President. 

Ms Clinton finally came to New York in 2000 at the end of Mr Clinton’s second term in the White House, where then she was elected to serve as New York Senator. She was elected for a second term four years later, and cites her record while serving the state with bravado. 

Ms Clinton’s Chappaqua home became the subject of controversy amid the email scandal that has loomed over her 2016 campaign. According to documents reviewed by Associated Press last October, Ms Clinton kept an email server in her home basement, and reportedly conducted personal and State Department business remotely. 

Expert analysts said that the private server – through which Ms Clinton sent top secret information – was vulnerable to attacks from hackers. Federal authorities are investigating the servers. 

Mr Sanders famously remarked early in the Democratic race that he’s “sick and tired of hearing about [Ms Clinton’s] damn emails", but he is not as uninterested in her ties to key players in the US financial system on Wall Street. 

The New York Stock Exchange facade on Broad Street Feliks Garcia

By the end of 2015, although Ms Clinton lambasts Wall Street, financial firms had given $44m in contributions to her campaign according to figures from the Federal Election Committee. Significant criticism of the Democratic front-runner has focused on the secrecy that shrouds paid speeches given to Wall Street institutions, such as Goldman Sachs. 

The New York Times editorial board – and many others – called for Ms Clinton to release the transcripts of her speeches to the financial institutions, which she has resisted, accusing the media of holding her to a different standard than other candidates. 

Ms Clinton had accepted as much as $675,000 for speeches from Goldman Sachs prior to her campaign, and reportedly earned $11m from 2014 to 2015 delivering such speeches to multiple firms. 

The 2016 campaign seems to present two Hillary Clintons when it comes to New York City: the corporate candidate bought out by Wall Street, and the champion of the black community. New Yorkers in both the financial district and Harlem expressed mixed feelings about the former First Lady – some were dubious, and did not place their trust in Ms Clinton’s hands. Other supporters sang her praises. 

Harlem’s residents expressed more favourable opinions of Ms Clinton, walking along 125th street – home of the Apollo Theater and Bill Clinton’s post-presidency office – although some still approached the candidate with skepticism. 

Multiple residents walking up a busy avenue were asked by The Independent their thoughts on Ms Clinton. The question was often met with laughs, headshakes, as well as a good humoured “No comment” from two individuals. An elderly woman said she was “sick of” the election. “I got other problems,” she said. 

Angela Elem working behind the bar of Lenox Coffee in Harlem Feliks Garcia

Middle-aged veteran James Johnson, walked briskly, but was enthusiastic about Ms Clinton. “She’s going to be great for Harlem. Bill’s here!” Mr Johnson said, adding that he’s excited to be voting in the 19 April primaries. 

“She’s trying to do the right thing … because she was in the White House with Obama. She knows a lot about what’s going on,” Leon Jones, 70, said. He said he had experienced some trying times in recent years, but remained optimistic about a Clinton presidency. “I think she would change society a great deal for being the first woman president in history.” 

“We never had no lady president. I don’t know how Iran’s going to take it. I don’t know how Russia’s going to take it, but they are going to have to deal with a lady,” he said, punctuating his sentences by tapping his cane on the sidewalk. “She understands that the world needs more love and understanding.” 

Angela Elem, 24, a Harlem resident and barista at a newer neighbourhood café, expressed mixed feelings about Ms Clinton, but did not get the sense that Harlem was such a stronghold for the campaign, despite the huge crowd at an appearance at the Apollo weeks ago. 

“I did see her trying to get on the subway the other day, and I thought that was hilarious,” she joked. “I can tell you, here, it’s not a big Hillary crowd. I’ve seen a lot of Bernie going on, especially on the corner of 125th by the train.” 

“If she’s going to make a stand in Harlem, she should probably try a little harder.”