Gov. Andrew Cuomo was never going to lose New York's Democratic primary on Thursday to Cynthia Nixon. Even Cuomo's 30-point margin of victory was predicted long ago. Anyone who thought otherwise, on the grounds proposed by the Sex and the City star herself, that New York is a solidly Democratic state and thus ready for a genuine progressive in the governor's mansion doesn't understand the dynamics at work in blue-state politics.
Maybe it's the popular image of how things work in red states that misleads people here. In Texas you can wave assault rifles at the site of high-school shooting massacres and not get shot by the same police who gun down black business professionals in their own apartments; they have an actual goblin as a junior senator because he just happens to be able to use English phrases such as "lower taxes," "the Constitution," "You know, Margaret Thatcher once said." Teachers in Oklahoma get paid in sacks of worthless Confederate paper money. In more moderate Arkansas it is legal to shoot illegal endangered varieties of owls on Sundays provided that you pass a background check. In Georgia on Flag Day all children are required to color at least three pictures of Noah in red, white, and blue robes riding dinosaurs. Etc.
There is no transitive property for partisanship. It does not follow from the fact that residents of New York are as unlikely to elect Republicans to statewide office as Texans are to pick Democrats that the average Empire State Democrat is some kind of avocado-snorting loonie leftist hellbent on a two-day workweek and turning Netflix into a nationalized industry. Sure, a few might be. But the average Democrat in New York, or any other state, would be a member of the far right in virtually any European country. Most white Democrats support Wall Street, business, and real estate interests, and doing the minimum to shore up the welfare state whenever there is enough of a fuss made about it — as long as it doesn't inconvenience them or otherwise meaningfully subtract from their own surfeit of privileges. Cuomo understands this, which is why his campaign has spent weeks on television ads that are the advertising equivalent of lighting half a million dollars a day on fire. When you got it, flaunt it!
This is also why I pity poor Cynthia Nixon. For months she has been droning on about free stuff — free housing, free health care, free daycare, free education, free abortion, free Wi-Fi, eventually free weed — and putting fish and goodness knows what else on a cinnamon-raisin bagel — doing whatever she can to establish her bona fides with her party's progressive left flank. I think they believe you. It just doesn't matter.
A lot of the things for which Nixon has been advocating are good; some, indeed, are moral imperatives. Why don't people want higher wages or better health-care or working infrastructure in our major cities? Spoiler alert: They do, actually. But the money and the institutional machinery built by the former are 100 percent behind Clinton-style triangulating, Third Way politics. The time-worn rhetoric about "competence," which is code for "Will do absolutely nothing that is detrimental to the flourishing of anyone who has ever spent a weekend in the Hamptons," has some kind of occult power over ordinary voters and the editorial board of The New York Times alike. Everybody should know better, but somehow nobody does.
Meanwhile for all their no doubt good-faith efforts, progressives are not very good at reaching out to minorities, which is why the Democratic Socialists of America is about as racially diverse as a Heritage Foundation panel on the perils of administrative law. The much-vaunted victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over an incredibly lifelike animatronic simulation of a neoliberal Democratic caucus chairman was a fluke that tells us more about the world-historic laziness and hubris of her opponent than it does about the likelihood of a progressive revolt within the party of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. You don't have to be a political genius not to lose to an underfunded barely credible outsider — you just have to try a tiny bit. Rep. Joe Crowley's mistakes are not going to be made again, certainly not on a stage as large as that of a New York gubernatorial election.
"We can't just be a kinder, gentler, more diverse version of the GOP," Nixon said in an interview on Monday. Pshaw. To quote her party's greatest living icon, "Yes we can!"