Tom Suozzi’s Win Is a Blip, Not a Trend

In recent weeks, Democrats have been making a clumsy attempt to move to the middle on immigration, at least in name. They see Tom Suozzi’s special election win on Long Island as an encouraging sign that the strategy can pay off in November. Suozzi talked about illegal immigration like a Democrat from the 90s and harped on the failure of the so-called “bi-partisan border bill,” giving Democrats, or so they think, a test of their effort to shift blame on Republicans.

It says a lot that Democrats think it’s a brilliant chess move to simply acknowledge one of the top concerns of voters. As much as Democrats want to think Suozzi left them a “playbook,” his sharp pivot was borne out of necessity, not shrewd calculation. He could not afford to ignore immigration like Democrats usually do, with the asylum-seeker crisis brewing next door in New York City. In the final days of his campaign, there were two widely publicized attacks by migrants, one of them on NYPD cops. Suozzi won despite his party’s immigration baggage—a gift from President Biden, who, by the way, Suozzi refused to campaign with.

A Long Island boy who is well-known to locals, Suozzi was also a credible messenger for a more moderate border policy, more so than the average Democrat and, ironically, his foreign-born Republican opponent (who is, actually, a registered Democrat.)

But this race wasn’t about the issues. Suozzi’s familiarity, his unimpressive and exotic opponent, and above all, the shadow of George Santos, were the deciding factors.

Long Island is something of a bubble. The armpit of New York City is the only way out by land, and many residents tend to stay close to home. The island’s complacency was rudely disturbed by the Santos scandal, which grabbed international headlines and heaped embarrassment on the wealthy residents of Suozzi’s 3rd district, one of the richest in the nation. For these voters, Suozzi (who previously represented the 3rd district and easily defeated Santos in 2020) represents a return to the status quo ante and the restoration of their lost respectability, the one thing rich suburbanites value more than anything else.

Suozzi was aided by a weak opponent. With immigration as the main issue in the election, it was certainly a peculiar decision for Republicans to run a candidate with an unusual name, a pronounced foreign accent, and a background—Ethiopian Jewish—that one could charitably describe as confusing. The 3rd district is one of the most Jewish in the country, which doubtless factored into the local GOP’s thinking. But a former IDF member turned out to not be what the doctor ordered. Republicans once again tried to beat Democrats at their own game, while Democrats—once again proving they are better at politics—obliged by embracing a clean-cut Italian guy.

Long Island is one of the most densely Italian places in the nation, but Suozzi very much represents the past, while his opponent was a more convincing spokeswoman for the globalist future. The big secret is that Suozzi’s affluent constituents, who broke for Biden in 2020, don’t actually want “diversity”—or at least, they don’t live like it. The residents in Nassau County’s well-to-do liberal towns have walled themselves in from the last thirty or so years of demographic change, which has transformed much of suburban Long Island, especially less affluent towns in Republican-leaning, Trump-friendly Suffolk County, into an extension of Queens.

Mass immigration is a more remote problem for Suozzi’s constituents, who are more motivated by embarrassment than fear. But the embarrassment of a wealthy enclave does not reflect statewide, let alone nationwide, trends. The political landscape of New York has only gotten worse for Democrats since 2022, and there is no reason to suppose they have somehow found a magic solution to their self-inflicted immigration woes. If they think Suozzi has shown the way, they’re sadly mistaken.

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About Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a Mt. Vernon fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a staff writer and weekly columnist at the Conservative Institute. His writing has also appeared in the Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter @matt_boose. ‏

Photo: WOODBURY, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 13: Democratic U.S. House candidate Tom Suozzi speaks following his victory in the special election to replace Republican Rep. George Santos on February 13, 2024 in Woodbury, New York. Suozzi defeated Republican Mazi Pilip in a race closely watched nationally as the presidential race heats up. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Notable Replies

  1. “Respectability, the one thing rich suburbanites value more than anything else.” Exactly right! It is this as much as anything else that explains the reluctance of the wealthy suburbanites to embrace Trump and MAGA. They are embarrassed to be associated with his apparent bombast and the “deplorables”.

  2. The GOP candidate in this race was terrible.Pilip wasn’t even a Republican.Too much immigration was the big issue and she checked all the pc identity boxes(Ethiopian-Israeli immigrant,woman,black,registered Democrat).What a mismatch.No wonder an Italian male,with long ties to the area won.The idiocy of the NY GOP can be understood as another sign of New York lunacy.

  3. Yes. Evidently for wealthy suburbanites protecting their self image is more important than protecting the country from deterioration and collapse.

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