Thursday, November 10, 2016

Zephyr Teachout, a Lesson for Bernie Bros

If you think Bernie would have won had he been the Democrats' candidate, I have a real counterfactual for you.

Zephyr Teachout was running for the House of Representatives in New York's 19th congressional district, which is a varied area south of Albany. It includes some Albany suburban areas, then stretches down the Hudson through and past Kingston and New Paltz to parts of the Poughkeepsie area, sprawling west to include most of the Catskill Mountains, including small cities like Oneonta and almost to Binghamton.

Parts of it are farm country, parts are suburban, while others are aging small to mid-size cities or rural tourism areas. Registered voters are one-third each Republican, Democrat, and unaffiliated, so it should be a contestable seat.

Teachout is the best example of a Bernie Sanders candidate there is, except that she's youngish (44) and female, and not a socialist to my knowledge. But she is a known campaigner against corruption and Citizens United and the Washington "swamp," from the Left. She directly addressed the need for jobs and economic development in the region, as well as hot issues like use of the Hudson River and poisoned water in a town called Hoosick Falls. And she worked her heart out campaigning everywhere in the hard-to-traverse district, with a volunteer base to match. So if people were in the mood for throwing the bums out, she should have been elected.

But instead of winning, she lost by 10 points to an Albany pol and lobbyist in what is the saddest news I got on election night, after Trump's victory. $18 million was spent on the race, with $7 million of it coming from pro-Faso superPACs funded by Wall Street titans. Teachout raised all of her money from small donors.

So if someone argues that Bernie would have beaten Trump, tell them about Zephyr. Tell them about the money that would have been spent against him, the swift-boating he would have experienced, and just the very real resistance to change that would actually do some good because it threatens corporate interests.

Zephyr's great concession speech can be seen here.


troutbirder said...

Sad news indeed. I had read all about her in the recent lead article in The Nation.

Javanderson said...

I must disagree with your thinking here, as we can never really know what Bernie's campaign would have sustained given the Republican onslaught. We can discern that Bernie would never have had to face the numerous allegations of corruption that were thrown (rightly or wrongly) at Sec. Clinton. Neither could he have been painted as having close ties with the Democratic Party establishment (perhaps why he lost). He also would have been able to draw from a massive donor file and simply build it over the summer raising much more than Trump or Clinton ever did. Teachout by comparison was relatively unknown to a truly national audience, and was herself out spent by her opponent and his Super Pacs. And as the maxim goes "All Politics is Local". This means that Teachout and Sanders were running on different issues, problems, and solutions as well. I think it is safe to say that Clinton and Teachout were both buried by the Trump wave of populist ire, something that would have been severely checked had Bernie had the opportunity to run.