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.

Filed Under: andrew cuomo, endorsements, governor, new york, tim wu, zephyr teachout
Companies: ny times


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


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

    Re:

    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.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.