Vanity, Thy Name is Nixon
By Alec Pruchnicki
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Cynthia Nixon has as much experience in government as President Trump did when he entered the White House. She has less experience in setting educational policy than Betsy DeVos did when she became Secretary of Education. Success, even prominence, in one field is not necessarily transferable to other areas. You would think that Trump’s election would teach us that celebrities need more than name recognition and the media spotlight to be competent.
But, she does have more, doesn’t she? She has been accurately described as being an advocate for public education. Has she ever been a member or leader in any political club, or community board, or public school system advisory board? Has she done the grass roots work, out of the public eye, that many political people do? Remember, she is not just getting involved in politics, but is starting at the top and running for the highest office in New York State.
Being smart, hard-working and very progressive are all good qualities, but good intentions can have unforeseen consequences.
Many progressives, myself included, supported Zephyr Teachout when she ran against Cuomo four years ago, with the hope of pulling him to the left politically and maybe even replacing him. Everything else being equal, this would be a valid goal today also, with Ms. Nixon filling the role of challenger.
But, everything is not equal. Four years ago, Obama was in the White House and a Hillary Clinton presidency was on the horizon. Today, the Republicans have a lock on virtually the entire federal government. Unless we can turn this around—probably by taking over the House of Representatives—there is no telling how much more damage they can do, like tax reform that hurts New York, cancelling infrastructure projects, immigration law abuse, census manipulations, and who knows what else. If investigations into Trump show impeachable offenses, will the spineless Republican enablers stand up to him or will our constitutional democracy suffer a major injury? We must take back the House.
In March, there was an article in the Daily News claiming that Cuomo would be using his resources to go after seven Republican representatives to flip their seats to Democrat. But instead he and many other Democrats, on his side and on Nixon’s, will be spending time, money and media attention on fighting each other.
It seems every time the Democrats are on a roll they manage to screw things up by internal fighting or overconfidence. At the very least, this will leave the Democratic Party as internally divided as the Working Families Party.
If Nixon wins the nomination, will Cuomo accept it or find another ballot line to run on and take this fight to November? And, of course, the more divided the Democrats are, the more likely that a Republican can become governor. What happens to the progressive agenda then?
If Cuomo is defeated or significantly injured, there will be one less challenger for Trump, or Pence, in 2020. Even a conservative Democrat is better than any Republican.
There are many political issues that we will be fighting over in the coming year. It would be wonderful if we had unlimited resources and resiliency, but we don’t. We must focus our energy on the most important one: taking control of the House. Right now, a Republican house is truly the road to hell, paved by the good intentions of Cynthia Nixon and her supporters.
Cynthia Nixon is a Villager—In the Truest Sense
By Arthur Z. Schwartz
Cynthia Nixon has taken New York by storm over the last 30 days. Not because she is another celebrity running for public office but because she has, on a daily basis, announced policy positions which are turning New York politics (and Governor Cuomo) on its head. After two weeks, 30% of voters said they were going to vote for her. Zephyr Teachout, whose run against Andrew Cuomo catapulted her to national attention, only got 35% of the vote. Cynthia still has a 4½ month campaign ahead of her. She has stood up well to all inquiries like when Colbert asked her about the drawback to having the name “Nixon,” and she replied, “I’d rather be the good Nixon than the bad Cuomo.”
In mid-April I learned something else interesting, which spurred this article. I was asked to come to a meeting about her campaign and was given an address on Bleecker Street. I ring the bell, and see that it says “Nixon-Marinoni” (the last name of Cynthia’s wife). Cynthia Nixon is a Villager! So I go upstairs in this not-fancy loft building, and walk into Cynthia’s apartment. It looks like the apartment of any other Village couple of modest means who has three kids at home—which Cynthia does. Two teenagers and a 7 year old. She is in the kitchen, on the phone with Jumaane Williams, who is running for Lieutenant Governor, while preparing some food over a stove. Clearly, she cooks; the kitchen is chock full of well-used pots and utensils. This is not a person who lives in a world of glamour, despite two Tony awards, two Emmys and a Grammy, a long-running hit TV show, and frequent appearances on Broadway (she is a very serious actress). She lives like most readers of Westview.
Cynthia was born in Manhattan, the only child of Anne Elizabeth, an actress originally from Chicago, and Walter E. Nixon Jr., a radio journalist from Texas. Her parents divorced when she was six years old. According to Nixon, her father was often unemployed and her mother was the household’s main breadwinner: Nixon’s mother worked on the game show To Tell the Truth, coaching the “impostors” claiming to be the person described by the host. Nixon made her first television appearance on the show at the age of nine as one of the “impostors,” pretending to be a junior horse riding champion. Nixon lived the life of a family in the arts; she and her mom lived in a 5th floor walk-up on the Upper West Side. Cynthia began acting at age 12 in The Seven Wishes of a Rich Kid, a 1979 ABC Afterschool Special. She made her feature debut at age 13, co-starring with Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal in Little Darlings (1980). She made her Broadway debut that same year in a revival of The Philadelphia Story, was an actress all through her years at Hunter College Elementary School and Hunter College High School (class of 1984), often taking time away from school to perform in film and on the stage, and study at HB Studios on Bank Street. Nixon also acted in order to pay her way through Barnard College. In 1984, while a freshman at Barnard, Nixon made theatrical history by simultaneously appearing in two hit Broadway plays directed by Mike Nichols, The Real Thing, and Hurlyburly.
Cynthia landed her first major supporting role in a movie in The Manhattan Project (1986) at age 20. In 1988, Nixon portrayed Juliet in a New York Shakespeare Festival production of Romeo and Juliet. She appeared in The Heidi Chronicles and in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, and received a Tony nomination in 1996 for her performance in Indiscretions (Les Parents Terribles), her sixth Broadway show.
Cynthia had her daughter in 1996 and continued to appear in numerous plays and TV shows and then came Sex and the City where she played the lawyer Miranda Hobbes, who spent a lot of time on Perry Street and shopped at Magnolia. Nixon received three Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (2002, 2003, 2004), winning the award in 2004 for the show’s final season. It is hard to conceive that Sex and the City ended 14 years ago.
Since Sex and the City ended, Cynthia had her first son, appeared in a number of movies and Broadway productions, including Wit and Little Foxes, for which she won a Tony. In 2012 she married Christine Marinoni, a public education activist. Together they had another son.
All of Cynthia’s kids have attended public school and for more than a dozen years she was active in the fight to increase public school funding, acting as a spokesperson for the Alliance for Quality Education. She also became a leading advocate for LGBT marriage and announced her engagement to Christine at a rally for New York Marriage Equality. She is a breast cancer survivor and has actively raised money for Planned Parenthood over the years. In 2013, she was a major player in Bill de Blasio’s run for Mayor, opting to support him and not Christine Quinn because of his support for education funding. And, Cynthia is an active member of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, which was founded at Westbeth; her children are all engaged in Jewish study.
And she did all of this right from an apartment on Bleecker Street, a Villager in the truest tradition: an artist, an activist, someone not afraid to speak her mind, and a mom who cooks good food for her kids. Now, this complex, accomplished woman, who is a far deeper person than the character she payed in Sex and the City, is running for Governor against one of the toughest political foes in America.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader in Greenwich Village and Political Director of the NY Progressive Action Network, which has endorsed Cynthia Nixon for Governor.