The political world is abuzz with the news that the upstart Zephyr Teachout campaign made a much more serious run at Andrew Cuomo last night than anyone anticipated. For a campaign with no money in the most expensive market in the nation, it’s quite an achievement.
Matt Stoller has a good piece up this morning with five reasons why Cuomo won anyway and it tells you a lot about American politics. (For instance, he points out that the entire “liberal” establishment went for Cuomo and Hochul.) But he also made some important points about why this campaign has stimulated such interest among liberals. This one strikes me as particularly salient:
This was a real debate of ideas. This was the most interesting election I’ve seen since 2006, when Ned Lamont challenged Joe Lieberman for the Senate seat. Lamont defeated Lieberman in the primary, but lost in the general election. That year, the Presidential candidates — Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama — saw that the anti-Bush left that had emerged in the wake of the Iraq war to challenge the pro-war hawks was not dominant in the party, and resolved to crush it. They did. There has been such intra-party agreement for the past six years over policy that Paul Krugman and Matt Yglesias both pronounced the party devoid of real debate, except over some minor details (Vox’s headline was “7 reasons the Democratic coalition is more united than ever”). This election, in 2014, is the first signal that there’s real dissent within the party, over big stuff. While the core disagreements incorporate economic justice as well as national security, it’s not a coincidence that Zephyr Teachout was the internet director of Howard Dean’s campaign in 2003–2004.
I think this is right. But I’d add that all the forces for the status quo are gathering their strength to marginalize it. The Very Serious People (with money) are hashing out the situation and will decide that this actually strengthens Cuomo’s hands with people who matter — conservatives. They will see him as a good leader now. Sure, a bunch of hippies voted against him which means he must be doing something right. “This is a conservative country.” Watch.
Not that it matters — we must forge ahead. Liberals in this country have the same right to representation as conservatives do. And all Americans deserve a debate about the great issues of our time. Hopefully this is the start of something big.