When we were young, our parents would insist that we be “good sports” after a ball game. That meant that we were supposed to shake our opponents’ hands and say: “Nice game.”
In that spirit, we commend Ms. Teachout and Mr. Wu for running a spirited campaign.
There is something appealing about Ms. Teachout. There’s a brightness and clarity to her. In addition, we think she evolved during the brief campaign, and that’s significant. She started out mimicking Howard Dean. She was using his lines and even talking like him at times. It was amateurish. But at some point, she dropped all that and began to rely on her own native talents. Being able to do that, being able to refine her presentation and adjust and adapt in a whirlwind three months tells us that she has real talent and that she may have a future in politics if she continues to evolve.
We don’t think Mr. Wu has the same dexterity. No disrespect intended – but the more you saw of him – particularly the more you saw him speak in front of crowds – the more you wondered why there was a buzz about him. Yes, he’s brilliant on some issues, but he’s simply not as appealing as Ms. Teachout.
We gladly give the two of them their moment. We’ll forgive them that they were less than gracious in their comments last night. At one point, Ms. Teachout said that she ran against “a massive, corrupt machine.” We like to think she was referring to the political system writ large and not Mr. Cuomo, but we have our doubts. And Mr. Wu continues to take it as a personal affront and a dirty trick that Cuomo didn’t mention his name. They were entirely self-congratulatory in their remarks, but it’s understandable because they were caught up in the moment.
Now, without being bad sports, we want to make a point about the race. To the extent Teachout and Wu exceeded expectations – it may not have been due to a lot of Democrats buying into their far-left philosophy. To be sure, there is a disgruntled left wing of the Democratic party, but that doesn’t explain last night.
What explains last night is public sector unions. Look at the Capital District vote tallies. This is the area where the public sector unions have the most influence. PEF, CSEA and NYSUT, too, were trying to send a message to Cuomo, and Teachout and Wu were the mechanism for doing so.
In coming days, somebody will do the math and find that without the public sector unions’ efforts, Teachout and Wu’s numbers would have been unimpressive indeed.
The irony here is that Teachout and Wu are supposed to be the antithesis of special interest politics. But their “success” in this race is almost entirely the result of one of the most selfish special interest groups of all. These unions aren’t about philosophy. Not really. The unions are about getting more for their members. No crime there. It’s what they are supposed to do. And what the Governor, whoever he or she is, is supposed to do is hold the line. That’s what Cuomo did and it pissed off the public sector unions.
The bottom line is this: If there had been a more generous labor settlement with PEF, PEF wouldn’t have endorsed Teachout and Wu and their numbers last night would have been 15 points lower.
PEF put out a statement this morning saying that Teachout’s strong showing “affirms the political power and clout” of public sector unions. Susan Kent, the new union president – in a rather exultant tone — said Teachout’s Capital District numbers were direct result of her (Kent’s) activities.
So this wasn’t about big ideas and progressive ideology. It was about internal union politics.
We’re rather saddened by that. It strikes us as cheap. We would have preferred that people have real ideological differences.