Is Nixon The One For Democrats?
Cynthia Nixon blasted Gov. Cuomo on Monday for “mansplaining” about sexual harassment and for enlisting a lawmaker accused of forcibly kissing a female staffer to combat misconduct against women.
The former “Sex and the City” co-star played the gender card one week after announcing she would challenge Cuomo for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in the Sept. 13 primary.
“I have seen Andrew Cuomo mansplaining and lecturing women on sexual harassment,” Nixon said at a press conference in Albany. “I have read about him lecturing [state Sen.] Andrea Stewart-Cousins that [state Sen.] Jeff Klein is more qualified in understanding suburban voters, better than she does, despite her being a Senator who oversees the suburbs of Westchester.”
If you want to know what an authentic left-wing populist looks and sounds like — and you want to think through the electoral advantages and disadvantages of the Democratic Party embracing the approach going forward — pay close attention to former actress and activist Cynthia Nixon’s recently launched campaign to unseat Andrew Cuomo as governor of New York.
Like Bernie Sanders, Nixon makes class-based appeals, rails against politicians who kowtow to big business, emphasizes her own (early) success in raising small donations from ordinary voters, and supports economic policies that place her firmly on the left side of her party. All of this sounds like what one might expect from a left-wing populist agenda: standing up for the people against the powerful, opposing the political and economic establishment, and promising to purge a corrupt system.
But what makes Nixon even more purely populist than Sanders is that she combines these class-based positions with the outright appeals to ethnic, gender, and racial identity politics favored by grassroots Democratic Party activists. As she argues in a wide-ranging interview with Glamour magazine, “the fact of the matter is, our working class doesn’t look like the working class of 1955. Our working class is largely women and people of color.”
That’s actually not true, not even in New York state, as Linker points out. But in most ways, Nixon is a real Democratic Party populist. He continues:
Would Nixon’s populist campaign improve on that result, reversing the Democratic Party’s transformation into a party that appeals primarily to upper-middle-class and wealthy urbanites and working-class minority groups? Or would she instead solidify the widespread impression that Democrats increasingly view the problems afflicting small town and rural America, along with the struggles of the white working class, with contempt?
It will be interesting to see if the Cuomo-Nixon Democratic primary showdown becomes a Blue State version of the Alabama GOP contest between incumbent establishment pick Luther Strange and populist Judge Roy Moore. And, the rage that the Parkland students are articulating and channeling in their gun control protests seem to be energizing populist impulses among progressives. Pure economic populism is not going to cut it in either party. Maybe Nixon’s cultural politics (and that of the Parkland Children’s Crusaders) will help yesterday’s Bernie voters find their voice. As Linker points out, that’s not necessarily going to be good for the Democratic Party (he thinks Trumpish populism is bad for the GOP too), but that doesn’t mean it’s not the coming thing.