On Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he was extending the right to vote to parolees via executive order.
It’s just the latest headline-grabbing move for Cuomo, who, in recent weeks, has: helped end to a longstanding split between state Senate Democrats; said New York was “ahead” of other states on marijuana (it’s extremely not); suddenly found the money and political willpower to help fix the New York City Housing Authority; and was portrayed by his own campaign as being in “lockstep” with Sen. Bernie Sanders, who currently occupies an unrivaled space on the American left. (Sanders adviser Ari Rabin-Havt responded, rightly, that this was “100% Grade A American bullshit.”)
What do all these things have in common? They all happened after Cynthia Nixon began her primary campaign from the left against Cuomo. One way to interpret Cuomo’s sudden interest in progressive politics is that Nixon has him shook, and is dragging him kicking and screaming into playing the part of an effective social Democrat in the hope that he won’t be unceremoniously dumped in the Democratic primary later this year.
One entity that doesn’t seem to be a fan of Nixon, however, is the Takes Department at the New York Times. The Times, more often than not, has treated the Nixon campaign with utter disdain, portraying it as an unserious challenge to an immovable political dynasty.
Soon after Nixon announced her run in March, Times metro columnist Ginia Bellafante wrote a piece showering Cuomo with praise for his progressivism and charging Nixon with helping to “solidify the image of the city as a luxury brand” because she was on Sex and the City, which sure as hell lets a lot of developers and politicians off the hook.
You wouldn’t want to be operated on by a physician with only a few surgeries under his or her belt, and the assurance that this doctor brought a fresh perspective to anesthesia and incisions wouldn’t thrill you.
You would choose a pilot who had flown 999 flights over one with nine, and you would want your child’s teacher to be practiced with pupils, not merely a vessel of great enthusiasm.
So why the romance with candidates who have never done a stitch of government work before?
Just an all-around incredible analysis.
The latest example of the paper’s hostility came on Wednesday, in a column from Times editorial board member Mara Gay. Even in a piece that takes Cuomo to task for throwing his weight around against Nixon-friendly groups like Make the Road and New York Communities for Change, Gay frames the governor’s left turn as the actions of a guy who was already progressive enough doing even more due to an ungrateful electorate’s flirtation with a celebrity populist, rather than a centrist making a calculated move to the left because he knows he might lose his job if he doesn’t.
The governor has real progressive accomplishments to point to. He successfully pushed to legalize same-sex marriage, extending basic rights to millions. He secured one of the toughest gun safety laws in the country, astonishing even his supporters by expanding the state’s assault weapons ban in a matter of weeks after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn. He helped thousands of families in New York City and elsewhere in the state secure free prekindergarten, a triumph.
Is everyone showing gratitude? No, they’re talking about that celebrity challenger, Cynthia Nixon.
Gay’s comment might have been tongue-in-cheek, but the point stands: Andrew Cuomo has, at various time, acted like a Democratic governor of a very liberal state. Why are people so mad at him?
Gay later echoes the Bruni defense of Cuomo in this race: he’s a proven commodity, unlike that actress:
But while the governor has some real problems — like the decrepit subways and ethical concerns — in many ways he is also the most experienced politician in New York State, and he has a solid record to run on. On Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo said he would issue an executive order granting parolees the right to vote, a refreshing example of what he is capable of when he sets the vindictive political games aside.
Yes, Cuomo decided after seven years as governor to do this out of the kindness of his heart, and not at all because of “political games.” Also, he’s unethical and let the subway system go to hell, but at least he’s experienced, by virtue of having held the job for nearly two terms years. Relatedly, the 2020 presidential election should be between Donald Trump and George H.W. Bush, because they’re the only two guys alive who have held the job and aren’t term-limited. This is the commentary I crave.
Then there’s Gay’s kicker, which somehow manages to call Nixon “capable” and be dismissive at the same damn time:
Since Ms. Nixon burst onto the stage last month, her central argument has been that the governor cares more about politics and power than people. If he isn’t careful, Mr. Cuomo will play right into her capable, lawyerly hands.
Aside from the fact that the Nixon campaign is far from the first time Andrew Cuomo has been characterized as a power-hungry politician—she’s not actually a lawyer, she just played one on TV. Haha, get it?
At this point, it’s not clear what drives the Times’ disdain for Nixon more: its unyielding love of the status quo and “experience” as a political virtue, or its refusal to take left populism seriously, either as a set of policies or as a political movement. But if Nixon continues to narrow the gap between Cuomo and herself in the polls, I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.