Editorial: Center of the Political World

There was a time, long ago, when national politics and New York politics were nearly one and the same. From 1928 to 1948, the state produced a presidential candidate every year, and in 1944, both presidential candidates, Franklin Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey, called New York home.

More recently, of course, the center of gravity has shifted south and west as New York and its neighbors hemorrhaged electoral votes and, thus, political clout. 

But all of that is about to change. With Hillary Clinton considered the Democratic Party’s nominee in waiting (and Governor Andrew Cuomo thought to be among those sweating her decision) and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie regarded as a strong candidate for the Republican nomination, the New York metropolitan region has returned to the national political spotlight.

New York will never again be what it was in the 1920s—the state with the largest number of electoral votes (45). But the region still can produce political leaders who emerge not so much because they represent powerful constituencies but because they articulate powerful ideas. 

Mr. Christie and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Mr. Cuomo have emerged as important governors, because they have proven that they can get things done. That alone sets them apart from those who conduct business in Washington. The two governors also have managed to cross party lines and even, yes, compromise on occasion for the sake of getting legislation passed. 

Mrs. Clinton, of course, partnered with her husband, President Bill Clinton, in moving the Democratic Party to the center in the 1990s. And in her role as secretary of state, she sometimes won admiration even from critics for her tireless efforts to advance national interests while balancing the concerns of allies and antagonists alike.

Being able to play well with others, or to at least tolerate the existence of others, may well be a product of the dizzying diversity and close quarters of life in the greatest metropolis on Earth. If you can negotiate here, you can negotiate anywhere.

Whatever the reason, it would seem clear that the next presidential cycle will feature a good deal of talk about how people get things done in the New York-New Jersey area. Who knows? Maybe the rest of the country, and maybe even Washington, will learn something about leadership from a region whose influence was thought to be long gone.