Is Nixon the celebrity anti Trump we need?

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When Cynthia Nixon released her campaign video showing she was running for governor of New York the excitement was instantaneous. Not because she was a woman, as there have been no female governors of the state, nor because she once played Miranda on Sex and the City, but because she spoke in a way that captured leftie hearts the world over.

Cynthia NixonAs scenes of her walking down the streets of Manhattan — much like she did in the TV show she is famous for — intercut with images of her domestic and work life, she tells us how she was raised by a single mother in New York, and how she had spent her whole life in the city she loved. She also mentions how passionate she is about public schooling, and how she sent her own children to a public school.

This last statement brought Nixon extra kudos because while many left leaning celebrities and politicians will throw their support behind public schooling, they themselves rarely send their children to public schools.

But despite what she said, many couldn't look past the fact that this person, intending to get into serious politics, was most famous for being an actress. What qualifications did someone like that have to be a governor of a major city? Or, as Carrie Bradshaw may have said herself, 'I couldn't help but wonder, was Miranda really in over her head?'

Still, it does seem that Americans love their celebrity politicians. Trump, of course, is the most recent and obvious example. But there is also Schwarzenegger, who was governor of California for two terms; Reagan, who was arguably one of the most beloved of US presidents (especially for conservatives); Sonny Bono, who was a mayor of Palm Springs and a congressman; and wrestler Jesse Ventura, who served as governor of Minnesota. And since the Golden Globes there has been buzz that one of the biggest celebrities of all, Oprah, should run for president.

The reason the public and the press is interested by celebrities in politics is because people generally find politics boring. They don't trust politicians. And it doesn't help that most political parties, whether in the US or here in Australia, seem to be dominated by identikit white men in suits. So when someone like Cynthia Nixon steps into the fray, she is of course going to attract attention.

While celebrity may get Nixon the attention she needs, there are a few details that may get in her way. First of all she's a woman. The vast majority of celebrities turned politicians in the US have been men. And if Hilary Clinton's savage treatment is anything to go by, women getting into politics must prepare to receive much sharper criticism than men. Schwarzenegger, for example, rode his Terminator fame towards a landslide victory in California, despite his lack of experience and some serious sexual assault allegations being levelled against him during his campaign.

 

"Just her presence in politics is adding a much needed spark of optimism for those jaded by the Trump era."

 

Then there's the fact that Nixon is bisexual. She has already been called an 'unqualified lesbian' by a city councillor, and that was just 24 hours after she announced her campaign. What more is there to come?

There are hardly any openly gay politicians in the US, mostly because of entrenched homophobia within the voting public. But New Yorkers consider themselves different from the rest of the country, and one can hope that Nixon's sexuality is her own private matter and not something that's up for debate.

Then there are the causes Nixon supported in the past that could bring with them their own problems. She has voiced her support for Planned Parenthood and, most controversially, she has been accused of sympathising with Palestinians and being anti-Zionist. In the past this latter view would have been the 'kiss of death' for her campaign, as New York has a sizeable Jewish community. However, Nixon's long standing commitment to the Jewish faith may help some within the Jewish community overlook such matters.

So how then does a female, bisexual, very left-leaning actress get taken seriously in the world of American politics? Well, she does so by being true to herself.

'Sometimes a little naïveté is exactly what is needed. With a jaded system, everybody says, "Yeah, well, that's the way it is." You need somebody to come and say, "Why? Why is that the way it is?"' she recently told Glamour magazine. This and the fact that she has campaigned for public schooling for decades and has not sat on her laurels but gone down onto the streets and protested and spoken out about matters close to her heart is what makes Nixon so compelling.

She has a tough fight ahead of her and she needs to be prepared for the attacks that are to come, but just her presence in politics is adding a much needed spark of optimism for those jaded by the Trump era.

 

 

Saman ShadSaman Shad is a writer for a number of publications. She is also a storyteller and makes radio programs.

 

Recent articles by Saman Shad.

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Topic tags: Saman Shad, Cynthia Nixon, New York, Arnold Schwarzenegger

 

 

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Existing comments

I think it is great that Cynthia Nixon has some progressive ideas regarding support for public schooling, rights for women and gays and greater economic rights for poorer Americans. However, I think that we need to know a lot more about her political position on other issues before we can assume that, if she is elected as governor of New York, she would be effective in countering Donald Trump's dreadful policies and attitudes. I recently read that at the annual Human Rights Campaign Greater New York gala, where she was given the Visibility Award, she said “We have to be more than the anti-Trump party. In 2018, we don't just need to elect more Democrats, we also need better Democrats.” I think this is heartening, but I would want to know about what her policies on the activities of the US Military Industrial Complex and the CIA in destabilising democratic governments and instigating wars I think it would also be helpful to know what her position on countering climate change and pollution that is threatening public health. These are issues that do not mean much to Trump because of his excessive arrogance and ignorance. The big issues in the world today are working for peace and ensuring that our environment is healthy, safe and viable. New relevant politicians have to show that these issues are high on their agendas.
Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 29 March 2018


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