On Wednesday evening, Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed actress, activist and now presidential candidate at Hofstra University Cynthia Nixon in the only debate before next month’s Democratic primary. The debate was not open to the public. So people gathered in their apartments, in a gastropub in Queens, in a hybrid bar-restaurant-cinema-theater in Bushwick, and in an Applebee in the Bronx, to watch Nixon, a progressive, try to close Cuomo’s lead in thirty points in the polls.
Bleecker Street Bar, which would normally show the Yankees game, used its ten televisions and the projector screen to broadcast the Cuomo-Nixon showdown. In the main room, about thirty people had gathered to send their colleague, Rose, away, who was leaving a software engineering company after seven years of work. They bought Rose to drink and remembered the best they could, while over a hundred Nixon supporters streamed past the leather booths and darts, flocking to the back room, where Nixon campaign volunteers were throwing a party. The group distinguished themselves from other patrons, wearing a festooned rainbow “CITY FOR NY“Gears, blue buttons with the phrase” Unqualified Lesbian “(as Christine Quinn, former New York City council president and Cuomo supporter, described Nixon in March) and shirts with slogans like” Why be a racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic when you could shut up? ”A woman wore a crop top covered with Robert Mueller images. “Is it Mueller?” someone asked her. “Yes, I confirm. “I love.”
The Nixon contingent began to whistle before the debate even began, when the broadcast began showing a new Cuomo commercial twice. Cuomo and Nixon went on stage, Cuomo wore a dark blue suit and a blue and Nixon pattern tie with a sea-foam green buttoning and white jacket. “I’m not an Albany expert like Governor Cuomo,” said Nixon in his first response. “But I think experience doesn’t mean much if you’re not really good at governing.”
There was applause and “ooh” in both rooms of the bar. Although not everyone was there for the Nixon party, almost nobody seemed to be a Cuomo supporter. Candidates spared health care, labor laws, campaign funding reform and Trump. Cuomo dispelled rumors of running for president in 2020 by declaring that he would end an entire term “unless God hits me dead.” Someone at the back party had designed a drinking game for the event. Whenever “Cuomo mansplains”, dictated by the rules, “give a sip of your drink to the nearest non-male identification person”. If either candidate raises immigration, “ask for your next drink without ICE”. The game was quickly abandoned and people drank beer and frosé at their own (fast) pace. “If you had followed the rules of the game, you would have died from alcohol poisoning,” said one participant.
At 7:15 am P.M., a quarter of the debate, it was overheating uncomfortably in the back room. A couple of women turned their heads upside down to put their hair into buns. Natalie James, organizer of democratic socialists of America who wore a “Dump Cuomo!” pulsating, he seemed optimistic. (The DSA supported Nixon in late July, calling it their “best chance” of winning universal rental control and Medicare for everyone in New York.) James said he warned his friends against placing too much emphasis on polls, citing the outcome of Florida’s Democratic primary government on Tuesday. He noted that Andrew Gillum, who polls had suggested placing third or fourth in the race, defeated Gwen Graham, leader and daughter of former Florida governor Bob Graham. “State-level polls are known to be inaccurate. Look at Ocasio and Bernie.”
James, a lawyer who defends tenants from landowners, works in Bed-Stuy. He moaned for being late in the debate because trains A and F were late. “Just another day with Cuomo’s M.T.A.,” he complained. (It was not the only participant who specifically complained about the F train.)
Nixon, who was on the offensive for much of the debate, hit Cuomo hard on the subway. “He used the M.T.A. as an A.T.M.”, he said, accusing him of taking funding from the M.T.A. and use it in his “pet projects”. (“My opponent lives in the world of fiction. I live in the world of facts,” Cuomo replied, replying that the capital repairs for the subway are paid by the city, not by the state, even if this is a point of contention.) A woman made a lasso and threw her invisible rope against the screen, wrapping Cuomo.
“We are doing more construction work than anytime after Robert Moses,” said Cuomo.
“Fuck Robert Moses!” cried a woman.
A young woman in her twenties tweeted furiously live on the whole debate. “Governor Cuomo is like me with Amazon,” he wrote. “I put everything I want in my cart, but when I see the shipping costs, I say that I can’t afford it and make irresponsible decisions based on personal desire.” She told me that she had pledged to vote for Nixon and that the debate had strengthened her decision: she was less affected by Nixon than she was disappointed by Cuomo, who she would have found more convincing if she hadn’t “made so many excuses.” that, in general, being defensive is discouraging, “he said.
Alex Liao, one of the organizers of the event, entered the room with several boxes of pizza.
“Any vegan options?” someone asked jokingly.
“No,” said Liao laughing.
During a flash of questions for both candidates, Nixon was asked if he would give up the governor’s salary of one hundred and seventy-nine thousand dollars and return it to the state, since he identifies himself as a democratic socialist. He stopped and thought about it for a moment before answering “Sure”.
Abram Thomas Blau, the person clamoring for vegan options, described it as a favorite moment in the debate. “It really seemed that he didn’t necessarily consider one way or another if he would give up his salary, and then he made the right call ahead of us,” said Blau. “I’m not stupid – there is a possibility that there was a small political theater there – but, in any case, seeing her do the right thing, in real time, was quite nice.”
Gillian Feuerberg came to the bar to greet Rose, but also ended up watching the debate. While smoking a cigarette outside, Feuerberg said that Nixon’s rise was “sudden”. “I love what he’s saying, but I don’t know who he is, or what his voting record is,” explained Feuerberg. “The governor is a huge thing. The government race is different from the state senate, city council. I feel it should have started with a really solid neighborhood in Manhattan. Go straight for the governor? It is quite intense. It’s almost like being a star of reality and going straight for the presidency. “
“The Democratic Party is in such a strange place right now,” he continued. “I respect Cuomo for discussing Nixon as an incumbent. What happened in the last primaries with these incredible progressives coming out of the carpentry shop, you have to respect it. You have to respect what happened with the left that went so left. You can no longer be the democratic centrist, even if you are elected. “
When progressives don’t win in Democratic primaries, perhaps the best thing for them is to have pushed their opponents further to the left. Since Nixon entered the competition, Cuomo has started the process of legalizing marijuana, which he once called “gateway drugs” in New York. In April, he announced that he would restore voting rights on criminals on probation and declared his support for the ban on plastic bags. (Last year, Cuomo killed a New York City proposal that would have imposed a five-cent tax on plastic bags.)
Outside the bar after the debate, Cassandra Leveille, another D.S.A. member, showed the tattoo on his right arm. It was an illustration by Dorian Corey, a drag queen of the 1991 documentary “Paris is Burning”. He explained that, at the end of the documentary, Corey gives a speech on how everyone wants to make a mark in the world, but as you age, you lower your expectations of success. “You don’t have to bend the whole world,” he paraphrased. “If you shoot an arrow and rise very high, cheers for you.”