Vote Teachout

Part of progressive frustration with the Tea Party, aside from shaking our heads over the sheer lack of enlightened self-interest shown by most of its on the ground supporters, is jealousy. They run primary campaigns against the mighty, like Eric Cantor, they expect and intend to win, and sometimes they do. Sometimes losing doesn’t change their audacity.

It seems sometimes like progressives have decided that because sometimes choosing the lesser of two evils might be the right political choice, that it’s actually always going to be the only choice available to us.

But it’s not.

On Sept. 9th, we have a primary election in the gubernatorial race. Very few people are paying attention to it. Gov. Cuomo is hardly campaigning, except insofar as he tried to get his challenger, Zephyr Teachout, kicked off the ballot (and failed).

What happens when very few people vote? Each vote counts more.

Since I’m not a state politics nerd who can give you confident predictions or the entire blow by blow of the Cuomo corruption scandal, I’m tempted to just leave this right here and let the cartoon run bigger than usual, and suggest that you go brush up on our Republican in all but name governor and then go vote in the primary, right? (At least if you are a registered Democrat.)

But since it seems like name recognition is Teachout’s main issue at the moment, let me say it a few more times:

Zephyr Teachout would ban fracking. Cuomo has refused to step up and provide a long-term protection for his state from this disaster for health, environment, and jobs.

Zephyr Teachout supports public schools. Cuomo wants to funnel money to charters and testing companies.

Zephyr Teachout supports labor, and has the endorsement of the Public Employees Federation.

Zephyr Teachout wrote the book (literally) on corruption in American government. Cuomo promised to close a corporation campaign donation loophole and instead raised millions through it, and is being investigated by federal prosecutors for unduly influencing, ironically, his anti-corruption panel. (The New York Times article on the Moreland Commission is really worth the read). Teachout might actually have a shot at succeeding in the infamously stubborn task of “cleaning up Albany.” Cuomo, on the other hand, could be the next Rick Perry. Do we want him still in office when that happens?

Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo’s running mate, Kathy Hochul, one-time congresswoman from Erie County, is proud of how much she sounds like, and votes like, a conservative In fact it’s a little confusing how she counts as a Democrat. It’s one thing to have a few conservative positions (though a thing still worth considering if you are a Democratic voter in New York state who might be troubled by those positions), but another to join with House Republicans on votes specifically and solely designed to embarrass the president.

If you need some more inspiration to get out the door on primary day, look up “major recent primary upsets” in Ballotpedia. And think about how you can send a message to not only Governor Cuomo, but while you’re at it to the Working Families Party, for whom I used to have so much respect, who chickened out and endorsed Cuomo again, despite his dismal record. WFP groomed Teachout for this race, so hopefully seeing her do well will remind them of what they do well and bring them their courage back.

If Elizabeth Warren is any indication, constitutional law professors can make really great politicians and leaders. How about we see if we can elect another one?

(This column was originally published in Metroland, the Capital Region of New York’s former alt-weekly, on Aug. 28, 2014.)

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