This week, Christine Quinn — CNN contributor, former Speaker of the New York City Council, and third-place winner in the 2013 NYC Democratic mayoral primary — came after the newly announced Cynthia Nixon governor campaign for New York state.
Quinn’s problem with Nixon is that the Sex and the City star is an “unqualified lesbian” who lacks experience to govern. (Quinn is herself a lesbian.) Quinn has since apologized for unnecessarily referencing Nixon’s sexual identity in a series of tweets that reveal her real problem with Nixon is that she didn’t support Quinn’s mayoral race. This leaves Quinn’s tired argument about qualification and experience at the forefront of her attack.
Cynthia Nixon is an Emmy, Grammy and Tony award-winning actor and activist who has fought for marriage equality, public education and women’s health care, and is a breast cancer survivor. She has been honored for her leadership on LGBT issues by GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign. In other words, she’s an accomplished leader in her industry and in her personal life.
We should welcome leaders to rise from all over the country, particularly those who are fighting for important causes. Just because Donald Trump got elected without any political experience and has been a never-ending dumpster fire nightmare since the day he was elected does not mean anyone without political or governing experience should ever be considered for elected office again.
In fact, let’s take a quick look at a list of individuals who were similarly “unqualified” to get elected for various offices.
1. Ronald Reagan (actor, two-term governor of California, two-term president of the United States)
2. Al Franken (comedian, actor, activist and two-term senator from Minnesota)
3. Arnold Schwarzenegger (bodybuilder, actor, two-term governor of California)
4. Sonny Bono (entertainer, mayor of Palm Springs, two-term U.S. Congressman)
5. Jesse Ventura (professional wrestler and one-term governor of Minnesota)
Cynthia Nixon is just as (probably more) qualified than each of these men. Furthermore, being “qualified” doesn’t necessarily equate with being a good leader. Let’s take a look at one such individual, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois, who also recently faced a primary challenge.
Lipinski, a Democrat, is the son of a former U.S. Congressman, has a Ph.D in political science from Duke University, interned at the United States Department of Labor and for a U.S. Congressman, became a staffer for a different Congressman, then became a staff aide to Richard Gephardt while he was House Minority Leader. In 2004, Lipinski’s father, Bill, won his party’s nomination for the Congressional seat he had held for 10 years. Bill then announced his retirement and convinced the Democratic Party to put his son on the ballot instead, leading to an easy victory for good old Danny boy.
Dan Lipinski has been in Congress since 2005. What has he been up to? Oh, just opposing women’s health rights, voting against funding for stem cell research, opposing Obamacare, voting against the DREAM Act, supporting DOMA, opposing marriage equality and voting against the Equality Act. Yes, he’s been a shitty leader, but hey, at least he’s qualified and experienced!
There’s a school of thought amongst Democrats like Quinn that we would all be better off if Democrats could just stick together, get elected and be in charge, and any threat to that — whether from Republicans or those further left than Democrats in power — is going to really mess things up for the country.
This is, of course, crazy, and all you have to do is look at the gang of Democrats who recently voted with Republicans earlier this month to roll back Obama-era banking regulations and consumer protections for proof.
Cynthia Nixon’s candidacy is in line with an undercurrent that has been apparent in every election we have seen in the past few years: people are dissatisfied with the status quo on both sides. And people are becoming wise to several underlying issues that have widespread effects on all of us: corporate money cash financing campaigns, increasing wealth inequality, attacks on public education.
New York is ranked at the bottom of the list in terms of income inequality and has ranked number one in political corruption. We need new leaders to take on these challenges and not feed into the existing systems and structures that keep them in place.
New York does not have term limits on governors, and many enjoy three terms, which is what Andrew Cuomo is now seeking. He has a campaign account of $30 million. But his approval rating is also below 50%.
The Cynthia Nixon governor campaign certainly has its work cut out for it, but to suggest she has no place challenging Cuomo is a defense of the status quo, and it ignores the possibility that strong leaders can come from anywhere.