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Zephyr Teachout

August 13, 2014

Great name. Weird lady.

Normally, we gravitate toward the scrappy and idealistic. But we’re skeptical with her. This is for several reasons:

First, her residency defense just doesn’t add up. Yeah, a judge bought it. The judge thought the people who appeared on her behalf to say that they had visited her in her New York City apartment were credible. But come on, who really fills out their income tax forms for multiple years and makes a mistake on their address?

Think about that one for a moment. You are filling out your tax form and you come to the line that says: Address: ____. 

When you get to that line, do you just blip out and make a mistake?

You’re living in a really hip section of New York City, but you think you’re still in rural Vermont. Really? 

And can you make that same mistake repeatedly – like when you go for a driver’s license, or buy a car and apply for acceptance to the (legal) bar?

We hate to be harsh, but “oops” just doesn’t cut it. She’s a law professor like her father, and her mother is a judge. She’s no idiot. She had to be doing it on purpose for some reason, perhaps tax-related.

We actually don’t care that she wasn’t a resident. The rule requiring five years is antiquated. She should be able to run. That said, this residency matter says something about her, and it isn’t flattering.

Second, we hate to be too personal, but we’re annoyed by her affect. What is that about? The glued-on grin. The sing-song delivery. Exaggerated facial expressions. The gesturing and poses. 

We know Vermont. Vermonters don’t act like that at all. Why can’t she be the person she normally is? She’s probably smart and kind and practical. But what we’re getting is this weird projection. It’s like she’s aping Howard Dean and it comes off as phony. Again, she should just be herself. 

Third, and more importantly, we think her messaging is nuts. Net neutrality? OK, it’s a real policy matter, and there is some merit to raising it. But making it your core issue? When you do that, you’re really not serious about running. But she says she is. She insists with great passion that she’s “in it to win it,” but the limited scope of her agenda makes us think the whole candidacy is about something else.

In this regard, it’s been suggested to us that her candidacy is actually about promoting a book she is publishing this fall. The topic of the book is – duh – net neutrality.

If that’s the case, she’s far more pragmatic than we thought, but it strikes us as rather disingenuous to run as the great progressive – “the only true progressive in the race” — while promoting yourself and your book.

OK, now that we given this harsh assessment, we want to make a confession and then try to dial back the criticism a bit.  

Our confession is that we do feel bad about being so critical of a woman candidate. Our belief is that New Yorkers are actually too hard on women candidates. We hold them to different standard than men. We tag them all too quickly with either the bitch or airhead label, and that it isn’t fair.

We insist that they perfectly balance work and family responsibilities when no such perfect balance is possible. Men simply don’t have to deal with that, and, again, it isn’t fair.

This is a digression, but think of what all these contradictions in our expectations produce. It produces a blanding of our women office holders and candidates. Think Gillibrand and HRC. Nobody is better than the two of them at talking and saying nothing.

To her credit, Teachout isn’t like that. She’s talking about the complicated issues she cares about. She does it intelligently and passionately. It’s just that her whole candidacy seems like an academic exercise and nothing more.

Still, the woman has gumption for getting into the race. And that’s something.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    February 27, 2015 6:26 PM

    For an article that laments the extra harsh scrutiny that women in politics get in this day and age, this article sure goes out of its way to undermine its underlying premise. It also seems rather trivial to make filling out tax returns a detriment to someone running for office. I’m pretty sure most people aren’t born or live with the idea that they’ll run for a certain office at some point in their lives. This article just seems to undercut itself at every moment it can. What am I supposed to get out of this?

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