New York Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon speaks at OZY Fest in Central Park on Saturday, July 21, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon got a lot of flack from the right for throwing her hat in the ring for New York governor. An unabashed socialist and political sponsor of Democrat rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nixon became an unlikely primary opponent of incumbent Andrew Cuomo.
For months conservatives and many Democrats ridiculed the actress for supposedly trying to trade on her celebrity to win high political office. After Thursday’s primary loss there was a lot of “I told you so”s flying around.
I think that’s unfair and although I am diametrically opposed to nearly everything Cynthia Nixon believes in, I feel driven to defend her. I don’t think the criticism of Ms. Nixon (outside of her socialist beliefs, naturally) is warranted. Here’s why.
I’ve always had a begrudging respect for Nixon. As a school choice activist, I’ve reported on education for nearly a decade and I have made myself very familiar with all the arguments against choice in education and many of the influencers making those arguments. Cynthia Nixon has long been a very vocal advocate for teacher’s unions and public schools in New York City and her wife Christine Marinoni is the founder and head of the Alliance for Quality Education in New York, which advocates for funding equality in public schools. In fact, the two first met when Nixon was a spokeswoman for the organization.
Nixon was an accomplished, successful actress when she began her activism decades ago and she’s always put her money where her mouth is, so to speak. Although she had the means to afford a private education, she enrolled her own children in their local public schools. She worked to improve the public schools for her kids and others by personally volunteering in the classroom, at school and then eventually becoming a spokesperson for various public education and union causes.
Nixon didn’t just talk a good game and wear a silly ribbon on the red carpet while the unwashed masses looked on…she rolled up her sleeves and dug in. We don’t have much in common when it comes to our ideas about solutions to our education crisis, but I have always respected her willingness to walk the walk and use her own success to help others in the best way she knew how.
Very few of the haters on either side of the ideological spectrum can say the same thing for themselves.
And by the way, why shouldn’t Nixon think that her celebrity status could help her make a run for political office? Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America. Clearly the game has changed, or at least shifted. It is no longer a silly notion. If an orange-tinted businessman-turned-reality tv star who once appeared on WWE can become the President, why can’t a red-headed lesbian actress from an HBO show about sex and relationships be the Governor of New York?
In 2018 it isn’t that crazy of an idea.
In a way Nixon is a lot like Trump – not in her ideas but in the respect that she was a non-politician who’d been around the political class for much of her adult life and didn’t like what she saw. She felt she knew enough about life as a resident of New York to change things for the better. Instead of whining and complaining about it, she decided to make herself a part of the solution. She saw a chance to make a difference by fighting from the inside instead of raging from the outside.
That takes guts, particularly for a woman and particularly for one who knew from the start she would be accused of being a “flake” just because of her previous (extremely successful) career. Not to mention the fact that she would be going up against an established career politician with deep – and shady – connections.
No, Cynthia Nixon does not deserve our ridicule. She has earned my admiration, even though I understand that I am probably the type of person with the type of ideas she roundly judges and excoriates at dinner parties. I get that. It does not diminish the respect she’s earned from me, one activist to another. She ran against the opposing party and her own party establishment…not for the faint of heart.
So many people are constantly moaning about how the political class is ruining everything. When someone from outside that class decides to risk their own reputation and privacy to break the stronghold of that entrenched class, we should all give at least a nod of approval.
Nixon’s ideas may not square with our own and they’re certainly not something I’d ever vote for anywhere, but her foray into the world of New York politics deserves a standing ovation. She understands what many Americans are only now beginning to grasp – that the ruling political class is pure garbage and they don’t really want to solve problems because solving problems is not a lucrative fundraising strategy. Nixon did her part to cut through that BS, and that deserves respect.
In the end her gamble didn’t pay off. Maybe that’s what’s best for New York; obviously the voters thought as much. But also in the end, Nixon can walk away from that podium with her head held high knowing she did what 99.9% of Americans would never have the guts to do.
Cynthia, for that you have earned my deep admiration. Congratulations on a good campaign and a heartfelt run.