Nixon Frosts Cuomo At New York Governor Debate
We're all rightly more interested in the upcoming (we hope) debates between rising star Beto O'Rourke and crawling slime Ted Cruz, but there was a debate Wednesday night between actual star Cynthia Nixon and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. As a "Sex and the City" fan (I even had theme parties), I have to remember this isn't Miranda Hobbes competing for the primary nomination of their intentionally unnamed political party against Chris Noth's Mr. Big. I must remain objective. Still, Nixon came out swinging as she fights to win the Democratic primary that math insists she will lose.
For nearly 60 minutes, Ms. Nixon and Mr. Cuomo exchanged barbs and blows, but it would be hard to view the campaign's only head-to-head confrontation as a crucial turning point.
Did Ms. Nixon come across as a credible candidate for governor? Yes.
Did Mr. Cuomo stumble irreparably? No.
Beating an incumbent is hard. Beating an incumbent is even harder when he has a war chest of $24.4 million, at last count.
The Nixon campaign likely hoped Cuomo would say something stupid like "America was never that great," which they could run with in the weeks running up to the September 13 primary election. Cuomo wisely avoiding speaking about America like the college girlfriend who dumped him, but he did confess to having "experimented" with marijuana in college. God, I hate the "experimented" euphemism when referring to college kids smoking pot or sorority girls making out with each other. Was there a double-blind study, a control group? It's not like there's doubt over the outcome. There's no scientific method here. You're trying to get fucked up. Cuomo's admission comes after he'd previously claimed it was a "gateway" drug, so does this mean New York has had a heroin junkie as governor for two terms? That's huge if true and the whole gateway drug theory not reactionary BS. Nixon meanwhile addressed the implicit racial biases regarding marijuana use head on.
Cuomo did come across as bland, like someone acting as if he's projecting authority. The person who is an actor, though, seemed genuinely passionate, if at times subdued. She didn't go on the attack as much as she could have. She didn't zing Cuomo, for example, on how the state's sexual harassment policy was crafted by a veritable barbershop quartet of dudes, one of whom, state Sen. Jeff Klein, was actually accused of sexual harassment. I keep imagining during quiet moments at these sessions, someone would suddenly exclaim, "I think we should do nothing! Keep everything as it was!" and the other men present would say, "Drop the fake accent, Jeff, we know how you feel about this."
Nixon also didn't mention that she'd be New York's first woman governor, which is sort of a "WTF?" fact for a supposedly progressive state. However, New York is weird. It elected Republican George Pataki to three terms. A major positive from Nixon's insurgent campaign is that Cuomo isn't trying to play nice with the Donald Trump supporters in the state but staking a position on the left as an outspoken opponent of the guy currently drunk tweeting from the White House. I think my favorite part of the debate was when Nixon and Cuomo played the game "Who Hates Donald Trump More?"
"Know me by my enemies," Mr. Cuomo said, pointing to the president's Twitter posts about him.
"No one has stood up to Donald Trump the way I have," Mr. Cuomo said.
Ms. Nixon dismissed that idea entirely, quipping, "You stood up to him about as well as he stood up to Putin."
Cuomo also called ICE a "bunch of thugs," which caused "Fox & Friends" to go into conniption fits on Thursday morning. Nixon, though, wasn't convinced a "corporate Democrat" was the best opponent to Trump -- and then Cuomo called Nixon a corporation, it was weird.
I'm wary of the "corporate Democrat" slur as it's often used to slime any professional woman in politics who achieved anything of note. However, Cuomo is hardly a progressive champion. He's supportive of unions but doesn't think public sector employees should be able to strike. His reasoning being that they're too important. No, really.
"If you allow the public sector unions to strike, teachers could go on strike. There would be no school, children wouldn't be educated... Sanitation could go on strike, which we've had in the past, which could be a health concern for the city. The subway, which is so important, could go on strike, which would mean no subway."
Yeah, the workers here have the leverage. This is what's called "fuck you, pay me." New York would come to a standstill without the teachers, sanitation workers, and transit employees who even Paul Ryan's first wet dream inspiration Ayn Rand would have to agree are all worth more than your average douchebag hedge fund manager.
I think Nixon's biggest stumble, though, was when she confirmed she wouldn't take a salary if she was governor. First place, the wording of the question was bullshit. Since when does believing in democratic socialism mean you don't think public employees should get paid for their labor? That's not how you socialism. The New York governor's salary is $179,000, which means a New York city high roller could decorate their Park Avenue apartment with multiple New York governors -- very modern art.
Public work shouldn't be a hobby for the wealthy. We should fund the salaries as though they're actual professions. Even if Nixon had never starred in a TV show and just remained a theatre actor and activist, she should still be able to afford to raise a family and serve the state. Also, Cuomo's net worth might not match Nixon's but it's still significant, so I'm annoyed he also wasn't asked if he was willing to work for free.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He recently fled Seattle, where he did theatre work for Book-It Rep and Cafe Nordo.