Actress and activist Cynthia Nixon officially announced on Monday that she’s running to become the next governor of New York, challenging incumbent Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary. The news came accompanied by a well-produced ad in which Nixon melds an appeal to progressive values with the kind of appeal to past glories (accompanied by stock footage of economically ravaged communities) that is usually the exclusive province of conservatives:
New York is where I was raised and where I’m raising my kids. I’m a proud public school graduate and a prouder public school parent. I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today. Our leaders are letting us down. We are now the most unequal state in the entire country, with both incredible wealth and extreme poverty. Half the kids in our upstate cities live below the poverty line. How did we let this happen? … We want our government to work again: on health care, ending mass incarceration, fixing our broken subway.
It’s a little jarring to see elements of Trumpian doom and gloom—the government has abandoned us, things were better back in the day—in an ad for a left-winger, but it’s also a powerful and simple message: Things suck, but they could be better. As any New York City subway rider will attest, the government is doing a worse job providing basic services than they used to, and drawing a line from that to the outsize power and influence of the extremely wealthy is smart. And in the age of Betsy DeVos, a simple affirmation that public schools are worth saving and improving—and sending your own children to—counts as radical.
Nixon and Cuomo will face off in the Democratic primary on Sept. 13; the general election will take place less than a month later. Late night hosts aren’t wasting any time: Conan O’Brien cut an attack ad for Andrew Cuomo before Nixon even officially announced:
Expect a lot more Sex and the City clips in your political future!