The law professor with a lesson for Hillary Clinton

Only one in five New Yorkers have heard of her, but Zephyr Teachout is on a mission to take the Democrats back to their progressive roots

Share

My new hero is Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University who wants to unseat New York governor Andrew Cuomo and fellow Democrat by challenging him from the left. When I met her recently at a party thrown in her honour, we talked extensively but I didn’t ask the obvious question: are you nuts?

Look at what she is up against. Only one in five New Yorkers has heard of her, according to one poll. Mr Cuomo has more than $32m for his re-election; she has $230,000 on hand. Mr Cuomo, whose father, Mario, was New York governor before him and who served in Bill Clinton’s cabinet, has all the moneyed supporters he needs and a sense of entitlement that provides a momentum of its own.

But now I think Ms Teachout, who ran the internet outreach effort of former Vermont governor Howard Dean when he ran for Democratic nomination in 2004, is not nuts but canny. Mr Cuomo is worried enough that he sued to block her challenge, arguing she hadn’t lived in the state long enough to be on the ballot for the September primary. A state court rejected that argument on Monday. As she said, “Game on!”

In Ms Teachout’s eye, Mr Cuomo is to the Democratic Party what Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson became to the Labour Party, symbolising the party’s drift away from its core values and putting Corporate Man before Common Man. She senses a loss of patience among progressive liberals in New York, who wonder what the Democratic Party stands for nowadays. If she can’t beat Mr Cuomo, she can pull him left.

But this isn’t just about New York. It’s a national narrative also, which brings us to Hillary Clinton. Not everyone thinks it is such a good idea that the Democrats seem to be rushing headlong to nominate her for president in 2016, particularly given her record so far this summer of astonishing botches. First she said she and Bill had left the White House “dead broke”, drawing attention to the extraordinary sums of money they have been pulling in ever since. Second, in an interview last weekend, she publicly rebuked President Barack Obama for not having armed Syrian rebels convincing some she is a neo-con hawk in the closet.

 

If there is a danger to Ms Clinton it will surely come from the increasingly disenchanted left. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who identifies himself as a democratic socialist, this week said he hadn’t ruled out making a run for president. “I’m not quite sure that the political process is one in which we anoint people,” he said of Ms Clinton.

Yet, even as she knows she will have to tack to the left to keep party unity, Ms Clinton insists on doing the opposite. Her Syria remarks, made to The Atlantic political website, suggest an interventionist streak that puts her out of step with Mr Obama, with nearly everyone in her party and with just about all the American public. She knows she blundered. It’s why she sent a message to Mr Obama on Tuesday saying she hadn’t meant to criticise him and why she and he were meeting last night.

Even Ms Teachout, 42, wondered at her own quest last Sunday addressing supporters in the county town of Hudson. “You should not have to have an unknown law professor run against somebody for a Democrat to become a Democrat,” she said. True enough. But who is going to make Ms Clinton a Democrat in 2016?

READ MORE:
Lauren Bacall: An amazing addition to my feminist fantasy league
Is it wrong to recreationally grieve for Robin Williams on social media?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

Science Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Science Teachers of all specialisms fo...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence  

Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a No vote

Oliver Wright
 

Scottish independence: Starting afresh could lead to economic miracles

Jamie McCallum
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week