Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Teachout Moment

 (*Updated below)

I'm going to break my own self-imposed rule of never endorsing a political candidate by urging my New York readers who are registered Democrats to go to the polls today to vote for anti-corruption candidate Zephyr Teachout, and her running mate, net neutrality advocate Tim Wu.

Teachout is challenging Andrew Cuomo, a Democratic governor so corrupt that even the New York Times refused to endorse him in the primary. It also refused to endorse Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and one-time manager of Howard Dean's campaign, but only on grounds of her alleged political inexperience. Unlike other outliers of recent history (I'm thinking Jill Stein of the Greens) she's actually gotten some pretty good coverage by the mainstream media. Then again, she is still operating within the safe confines of the established party.

As the fate of that other "invincible" corrupt pol, Eric Cantor, revealed earlier this year, anything is possible when even the few voters who ever bother with primaries actually show up and express their disgruntlement with the status quo. And if only 350,000 New Yorkers express disgruntlement today, Andrew Cuomo could well be out on his ass.

Cuomo, after months of refusing to debate Teachout let alone even acknowledge her existence (with the exception of sending a bunch of young Goldwaterish creeps out to her rallies to heckle her and sue her on grounds of residency; he lost both the original suit and the appeal), now looks to be in state of muted panic. He actually got Hillary Clinton to make robo-calls for him. He's openly strong-arming, with the help of his multimillion-dollar war chest, people he has the power to make very, very uncomfortable if he squeaks into other term.

That includes progressive darling Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has openly endorsed Cuomo for re-election. De Blasio, in turn, had allegedly dog-whistled a warning to members of this own apparatus to steer clear of a direct challenge to the Cuomo machine.

There's this from the New York Post: (a Rupert Murdoch rag, but apparently they despise Cuomo enough to try to make Teachout the lesser-evil winner. She, like many conservatives including Cantor's successful challenger, is running on an anti-corruption plank.)
The largely successful pressure has been especially intense to stop endorsements for Wu, who is given a real chance of defeating conservative-turned-“progressive” former upstate Rep. Kathy Hochul, Cuomo’s running mate for lieutenant governor, insiders said.

“Cuomo and de Blasio were pulling out all stops, making it clear that anyone who even considers endorsing Teachout or Wu will pay a big political price,” said a prominent Democratic activist.

“Cuomo especially is obsessed with Wu because he clearly thinks Wu has a chance to win, which would be a disaster for him,” the activist continued.
City Council members were told that pet projects would be endangered if they back either Teachout or Wu, said a source close to the council. “You wouldn’t believe how much we were intimidated and muscled,’’ said one.

Council members and state legislators were also warned that state-funded projects would be at risk if they publicly backed Teachout or Wu, several sources said.

Delivering some of the messages was Joe Percoco, Cuomo’s longtime aide and political enforcer, the sources said.
Zephyr Teachout herself has confirmed that some erstwhile supporters are backing out due to political pressure from the Cuomo machine. At this point, even the U.S. attorney who has Cuomo under criminal investigation for alleged witness-tampering and obstruction of justice has been mum on his probe in the weeks leading up to today's primary vote.

But stay tuned. Never say never. Even if Cuomo gets re-elected with Tim Wu as lieutenant governor, the Guv could be doing a perp walk before his second term is out. There's that little precedent of Eliot Spitzer being replaced by David Paterson on grounds of Spitzer's addiction to hookers.

A Teachout victory in New York would actually be huge. It could well turn the national campaign theme of 2016 into "It's the Corruption, Stupid."

*Update, 9/10: Teachout got over a third of the vote (NYT has good wrap-up here) and won handily in my particular county (Ulster). Pretty good for a law professor with no money going up, literally, against Wall Street. This vote tally represents a slow but sure public repudiation of neoliberalism and the worst income disparity in history. It should also give impetus to more "leftist" challengers to Queen Hillary (including but definitely not limited to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who to get my support, would still need to repudiate Forever War and the surveillance state.) Anti-war and anti-corruption could be a winning ticket. The trick, of course, will be to get any alternative candidates the same kind of coverage that Teachout enjoyed in the Times and elsewhere. It is probably too late this cycle, since the entire Congress is filled with corrupted politicians. But the disgust is out there. Change is coming. 


Jay - Ottawa said...

How about pictures side by side of Teachout and Cuomo? That alone will bring more votes over to the Teachout side.

Charles D said...

If Teachout loses today, I hope you will seriously consider supporting Howie Hawkins, the Green candidate for Governor. Hawkins has a long track record of support for progressive causes and isn't taking any corporate money for his campaign.

Jay - Ottawa said...

There's an unlocked review of Z. Teachout's book, "Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United," in the latest NY Review of Books (25 Sep 2014).

Fred Drumlevitch said...

This morning, as I made and ate my breakfast, I made the mistake of watching/listening to the television, tuned to "CBS This Morning". As usual, television is inadvertently revealing of why (despite a decent showing) Teachout and Wu failed to triumph over the neoliberalism machine: occasional proper coverage notwithstanding, the important issues are ultimately submerged in a mass media sea of distraction. So, for instance, coverage of Obama's claim to be able to operate against ISIS without Congressional approval was sandwiched between extensive coverage of whether the NFL commissioner previously knew about the surveillance tape documenting domestic violence by one of the league players, and the launch of Apple's new "smart" watch. (Parenthetically, I must say that I'm a bit troubled when a watch appears to have more "smarts" than do many members of the populace!). Anyway, that story about the NFL was actually the lede for the "newscast", and more than ten minutes was devoted to it, an eternity in mass-media "news" coverage.

Even when good electoral choices are available, the majority of voters are unlikely to make them until they learn to make proper choices in their information sources, and properly educate themselves.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I agree with Fred. It must be so frustrating to be smart and ethical and willing to put your own personal interests aside and run for political office.Then to realise the issues aren't even properly addressed in the media. Thanks for a great endorsement, Karen. It doesn't affect me in Australia but I am glad there are still a few good eggs out there willing to run for office and still a bit of intelligence out there in the voting public, even if the good guys didn't win this time.