NY Times Endorses Tim Wu For Lieutenant Governor, But Chickens Out On Endorsing His Running Mate, Zephyr Teachout

from the take-a-stand dept

We've written a little bit about the campaign of Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu for Governor and Lt. Governor of NY -- in particular about incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo's petty attempt to bankrupt the campaign with a bogus attack on Teachout's residency. That required a significant waste of time and resources, eventually leading a judge to toss out Cuomo's frivolous challenge. Teachout and Wu have long histories of being really in touch with the internet generation, and being true anti-corruption reformers. While their campaign may be a longshot (big time "outsiders" against the quintessential insider), they've certainly managed to make some noise. As we noted in our last piece, while most political observers felt that Teachout had no chance against the Cuomo brand, Wu stood a significant chance against Cuomo's preferred Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul.

So it was great to see the NY Times (whose opinion actually does carry significant weight in NY) strongly endorse Wu for Lieutenant Governor today:
Mr. Wu, a political newcomer, offers a fresh perspective and a new voice to counter Albany’s entrenched players. Ms. Hochul does not, and she has a deeply troubling record on health reform, gun control and environmental deregulation. For these reasons, we recommend Mr. Wu in the Democratic primary.

[....] Although he lacks time in politics, Mr. Wu has an impressive record in the legal field, particularly in Internet law and policy. Widely known for coining the phrase “net neutrality,” he has been an adviser to the Federal Trade Commission as part of his efforts on behalf of consumers to keep the Internet from “becoming too corporatized.”

As lieutenant governor, he wants to speak out on complicated issues that are too often ignored in Albany like immigrant rights and broadband access needed by more than a million New Yorkers. Those would be worthy pursuits, but he will also have to learn quickly how to navigate Albany’s difficult politics to make his views heard.
However, in a bizarre move, yesterday the same paper refused to endorse either Cuomo or Teachout in an article that really reads like an endorsement of Teachout, but where someone was too chicken to pull the trigger and actually endorse Teachout. It slams Cuomo and praises Teachout throughout the piece. Here's a snippet:
Mr. Cuomo became governor on that platform and recorded several impressive achievements, but he failed to perform Job 1. The state government remains as subservient to big money as ever, and Mr. Cuomo resisted and even shut down opportunities to fix it. Because he broke his most important promise, we have decided not to make an endorsement for the Democratic primary on Sept. 9.

His opponent in the primary is Zephyr Teachout, a professor at Fordham Law School who is a national expert on political corruption and an advocate of precisely the kind of transparency and political reform that Albany needs. Her description of Mr. Cuomo as part of a broken system “where public servants just end up serving the wealthy” is exactly on point....
So, uh, why not endorse Teachout? Well, because she doesn't have enough "experience." And yes, that seems to contradict exactly what they said about Wu, who also doesn't have much experience. But the NYT tries to explain this away by saying that the Lt. Governor's job has much less responsibility (which is true) and thus experience isn't as big a deal. But, really, everyone who becomes governor doesn't have experience being governor before (and lots of people get elected to such leadership positions with even less experience). Teachout has been heavily involved in a number of policy issues for quite some time.

As Gawker's Tom Scocca rightly notes, the NY Times' logic appears to be as follows:
In other words, Zephyr Teachout can't replace Cuomo as governor because she is not already the governor.

It is true that Teachout is not an experienced politician. The experienced politicians in New York State are hacks and criminals. That is the situation that the New York Times editorial board would like you to believe it cares about.

Yet the Times will not back the nomination of someone who comes from outside of the state's culture of political corruption—not some reckless crank, a goldbug or anti-vaccinationist or animal-rights activist, but a degree-holding product of Yale and Duke, a former law clerk, a person who works full-time at understanding the process of political reform.

What other credentials would the Times ask a political reformer to have?
The NY Times further rationalizes its failure to endorse Teachout, who the editorial board clearly likes better, because she has no chance. This is a typical, cynical and pointless "church of the savvy" move, in which the press likes to call things based on what they think will happen, based on their "savviness" in understanding the political process more than the public who actually votes. But that's why we have elections. Sometimes the "savvy" are wrong. Just ask Eric Cantor.

The NY Times further dings Teachout because she doesn't have experience in politics (even if she has tremendous policy experience), noting that the governor has to get legislation passed, but Scocca again points out how silly this charge is:
So rather than risk the possibility of failed reform, voters should resign themselves to the certainty of failed reform. On a practical level, then, the Times' attitude toward corruption in Albany is identical to Cuomo's: Accept the fact that nothing will ever change.
While the endorsement of Wu is nice to see, that was a "safe" way to pretend to support reform. The NY Times could have taken a real stand by endorsing both Teachout and Wu, but it chose to take the "easy" way out.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), Aug 28th, 2014 @ 10:13am

    Maybe it's just me, but I think I'd prefer an 'inexperienced' but non-corrupt person in office, rather than an 'experienced' but corrupt individual.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2014 @ 10:48am

    This is why we're in the state we're in.
    We're always desperately crying out for someone to come and fix things but whenever someone steps up it's excuse after excuse as to why they can't do it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 28th, 2014 @ 11:05am


    Maybe it's just me, but I think I'd prefer an 'inexperienced' but non-corrupt person in office, rather than an 'experienced' but corrupt individual.

    That's only because you're inexperienced and non-corrupt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2014 @ 11:29am

    I can't believe I'm saying this

    But I agree with Gawker, for once

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2014 @ 11:42am

    And the traditional news media only focuses on them not endorsing anyone for governor. I didn't even know they endorsed in the lieutenant governor race until I read this article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Adam, Aug 28th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    Insightful, re: "church of the savvy" criticism. So frustrating to see mainstream media power players again and again abdicate responsibility in reporting -- certainly Teachout would have a better chance of election w/ a NYT endorsement, no?

    That must be the biggest reason she doesn't get the endorsement, but it's hard to ignore a second: although both candidates are equally "inexperienced," that criticism stings the woman harder.

    Exactly the kind of nearly-invisible discrimination that, more broadly, is keeping the wage gap alive and white men (like myself) in business -- we just physically seem more capable and competent, we can't help it

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2014 @ 1:40pm

    The state government remains as subservient to big money as ever, and Mr. Cuomo resisted and even shut down opportunities to fix it.

    So has the NY Times in this case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), Aug 28th, 2014 @ 3:00pm


    Does anyone expect anything different? This is literally the home of Wall Street, for heaven's sake. Trying to reduce the influence of money there would be like trying to establish mass transit in Michigan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Guesternos, Aug 28th, 2014 @ 11:56pm

    New York Times is the Establishment

    Please. This is all easily explained. Gov Cuomo is the establishment power player. New York Times is in bed big time with both big government and big corporate interests. Truth is Teachout has studied corruption--big deal. She's never held political office. She has zero experience. Both her organization for breaking up big banks and Occupy Wall Street were gigantic ineffective FAILURES. She brings nothing to the political table but an oddball name, some research, and a law degree. New York Times leans dramatically left politically, but they're not stupid. If she won, she'd need four years to figure out how to run her staff. She should run for a lower office and get some actual experience in government. But alas, the elites always think they should start at the top. They're not like regular people.

    On the other hand, the Wu endorsement gives the New York Times an opportunity to endorse a non-white for a largely ceremonial, irrelevant position. Now Wu is quite distinguished in his field. What could be safer and politically Lefty cool? The hugely white staffed New York Times can play its diversity card here. He did serve one year as an adviser to the Federal Trade Commission, giving him more actual government experience than Teachout. Wu would be wasting his time as LtGov. He should continue doing what he is doing as a professor and intellectual.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Ninja (profile), Aug 29th, 2014 @ 3:56am

    Re: Re:


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Annonimus, Aug 29th, 2014 @ 5:35am

    She's a woman witha a name of Zephyr Teachout

    Maybe The NY times does not want to endorse Teachout because she is a woman or maybe they don't want to endorse someone with such a non-standard name as Zephyr Teachout, but I am pretty sure if they thought that the outsider platform had no chance they would not have indorsed Tim Wu.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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