The Slatest

Bernie Sanders Declines to Endorse Cynthia Nixon’s Democratic-Socialist Challenge to Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo speaks from a lectern as Sanders stands behind him.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo introduces Bernie Sanders at an event at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 26, 2016.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Leftist challengers, some using the Bernie Sanders-popularized term “democratic socialist” to describe themselves, have won a number of high-profile upsets in this year’s Democratic primaries. One of the most high-profile leftist challengers of all is New York’s Cynthia Nixon, the activist (and famous actress) who’s running against incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo. As the son of a former governor himself and a frequent player in scandals involving corrupt corporate cash, Cuomo is the very epitome of the establishment Democrat, while Nixon has sought out and received the support of democratic socialists including the actual official Democratic Socialists of America group’s New York City chapter.

Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, just released his endorsements for New York’s statewide primary on Thursday—and while he’s getting b ehind Nixon’s running mate (lieutenant governor candidate Jumaane Williams) and the progressive state attorney general candidate who’s running as a Nixon ally (Zephyr Teachout), he’s not endorsing Nixon herself:

As this thread explains, this is not necessarily a vicious betrayal on Sanders’ part—Nixon is trailing significantly in polls and would need big support from possibly Sanders-averse 2016 Hillary voters to win, while Sanders’ endorsements of Williams and Teachout are a winking signal that he’s probably high on Nixon too. Cuomo, for his part, has moved to the left in recent years, a strategy which has included support for such Sandersian initiatives as increasing the minimum wage and making college free. As Hanna Trudo of the National Journal observes, big-time progressives like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have to walk a line between cultivating the energy of the left and alienating incumbent colleagues with whom they have to work on passing actual policy; in this case, it seems, Nixon’s chances just don’t look good enough for Bernie to make the potential leap onto Cuomo’s bad side.