Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders slugged it out at the Navy Yard's Duggal Greenhouse in Brooklyn on Thursday night, but the fight for New York’s hearts and minds started long, long ago, as far back as last summer when Clinton set up her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn Heights.
As Tuesday’s New York primary has taken on a renewed importance in light of an unexpectedly prolonged battle for both parties’ presidential nominations, the candidates have stormed the city to cajole, seduce and arm-twist anyone and everyone who’ll listen, personally appearing at a string of fundraisers and rallies both open and closed to the public or letting their many surrogates make their pitch all over town. Needless to say, both Donald Trump and Sanders, as native sons, and Clinton, as the state’s former senator, know that New Yorkers appreciate that extra special touch.
Though fashion and society may seem to be on Clinton’s side – Marc Jacobs all designed t-shirts to be sold for her campaign – it’s a far more fungible constituency than meets the eye.
Sometimes, preferences run alongside classic New York political fault lines. Sanders, for instance, had no trouble with the lefty downtown demimonde. Tim Robbins and his ex-wife Susan Sarandon, both old-school Hollywood liberals, and Rosario Dawson, a new-school Hollywood liberal, are full-throated supporters, with Dawson turning up at many of the senator’s New York events, including his Washington Square Park rally on Wednesday. The socialite Tennessee Thomas holds Sanders events and meetings inside her East Village boutique, The Deep End Club.
Then there’s the actress Gaby Hoffmann. “I’ve been campaigning for Bernie as much as I can since Iowa,” she tearfully confessed at Flash Factory, a club popular with models and Jeremy Scott, at a “Bern NY Bern” rally last week that was crawling with Sanders supporters if not the actual senator himself. “People feel this urge to stand up and participate because this country is not working. And they are, they’re standing up and participating.”
The rally was hosted by Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly, who also run the Spring/Break Art Fair, but it was Sting’s daughter, the actress Mickey Sumner, who conceptualized the evening. “This is really about community and people coming together with a shared joy and love of what this man is saying. Which is essentially a passion, you know like giving a f--- about your brothers and sisters and helping people,” she said.
Still, Sumner added: “I’m English, I can’t vote.” The artist and society gadabout Chloe Wise was equally enthusiastic about Sanders but she also can’t vote. "I’m a Canadian citizen and I don’t have a social security number,” she cooed bashfully at the Guggenheim Young Collector’s party. “I would vote Bernie if I could.”
Though Clinton counts at least one prominent millennial in her circle in Lena Dunham – the Broad City gals don’t count – she has cruised to gain the favor of the more established corners of fashion. Condé Nast artistic director and Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour has hosted fundraisers in her honor – she even wore Marc Jacobs’ t-shirt to his fall show – as has Diane von Furstenberg. In fact, the DVF awards party last week was practically a Clinton love-in.
“She was here last year to present the award to Melanne Verveer [Clinton’s former chief of staff], and she spoke with so much intelligence and compassion and smartness that I [know] she would be as good of a candidate as she as a person and as the president she can be,” the designer said.
“She is the most qualified, most inspiring candidate to run for president, I think almost ever,” said New York first lady Chirlane McCray, who’s been enlisted as a high-profile surrogate.
“My problem with Bernie Sanders is not with his message. My problem is, ‘How’s he going to do it?” said the former magazine editor Tina Brown. All of them, by the way, can vote.
Among New York’s idle rich, there’s a sinking sense of disappointment with the electoral process. “As much as I think that Bernie Sanders is going to ruin the election for the democrats, I do completely empathize with him,” said André Balazs, the hotelier behind The Standard, at the Tribeca Ball last week. Not too far away was the Los Angeles grande dame Eva Chow: “Some of the people who are running, I’m very, very disappointed that those kind of people can be running in the presidential race, and I cannot say enough about it.”
But one thing is certain: Boy, do they wish Bloomberg was running again.
“Look, in the 12 years that Bloomberg was president [sic] here, the life expectancy of the average New Yorker’s gone up three years. You can’t say that anywhere else in the world,” Balazs declared.
“At least he has a brain!” said Sumner of the former mayor. “I don’t think he’s a racist. I don’t think he’s a fascist. I don’t think he’s a chauvinist pig. So I think, if people with a brain want to run for president, go for it. I’m all for that.”
That seemed to be a veiled shot at the elephant in the room, the leading Republican candidate.
Well, no one interviewed at the DVF Awards, the Tribeca Ball, the Guggenheim Young Collectors Party or the Montblanc 100th Anniversary blowout said they would vote for Donald Trump.
With contributions from Katie Cusumano, Stephanie Eckardt, and Emilia Petrarca.