AE9. "Picking the lesser evil for left voters"

Journalist Ross Barkan, whom AOC calls "one of the sharpest minds" in New York politics, gives a birds-eye-view of the 2021 NYC Mayoral election

Click above to listen to the 30-minute chat I had with journalist Ross Barkan, summing up many months of his diligent reporting on the 2021 NYC Mayoral election. Also, click here if you’d like to order a copy of Ross’s new book.

“When you think of the NYC mayoral race, it’s better to not so much imagine it as a municipal contest but think about it more as a highly diverse statewide race”

Election day was “Pub Day” for The Prince: Andrew Cuomo, Coronavirus & the Fall of New York (OR Books) by Ross Barkan, good friend and contributor to publications such as The Guardian, The Nation and Jacobin. As anybody with a television knows, at the height of the pandemic’s impact and during lockdowns practically around the entire world, New York Governor Cuomo was so tactful with the design and delivery of his press briefings—especially in contrast with then President Trump’s more blatant displays of belligerent incompetence—that he was given an Emmy. As a companion to the TV program, Governor Cuomo also released his NY Times bestseller, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Both works of creative nonfiction together briefly elevated the Governor’s profile so much so that he was considered last year by the Democratic party to edge out a potential Bernie Sanders nomination at a “brokered convention,” just as his father and erstwhile Governor Mario Cuomo was considered in 1988 to derail Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Presidential bid.

As Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leads on election night, his campaign excludes one of NYC’s renowned political reporters from entry into an event


As in many ways Gov. Cuomo enjoyed preposterous coverage by self-proclaimed “Cuomosexuals” among cable news anchors and writers for national publications, I was among those tuning into Ross’s Substack newsletter, then titled Cuomo Files, and delving deep into the gross misconduct, corruption and cover-up of corruption that characterized New York’s early pandemic response in 2020. Now no longer outshined by more crooked figures in the Trump administration at the federal level, Gov. Cuomo is under two active state investigations—for falsifying statistical data related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and for sexual misconduct—of which Ross’s reporting is largely dedicated to the former. So, his new Cuomo book timely arrives amid the Governor’s long overdue media reckoning, “issuing a corrective to the piece of propaganda” that the eponymous “Prince” had put out while undercounting COVID-19 deaths.

Gov. Cuomo’s scandals slowly took the backseat as New York city-wide elections gained steam, including a crowded Democratic Mayoral Primary headed to an anticlimactic end mirroring how the plurality of “insurgencies” and “movements” in the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary culminated in Joe Biden’s nomination. Such “return to normalcy,” even to Mayor Bloomberg levels, could be on the cards regardless of who among the three current frontrunners becomes the Democratic nominee after ranked choice voting totals are tallied, following an election that the city’s burgeoning Democratic Socialist movement appears to have sat out. Alongside the cratering of formerly Working Families Party-endorsed campaigns of candidates Dianne Morales and Comptroller Scott Stringer, perhaps the last-minute endorsements of Democratic Socialist Members of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Jamaal Bowman (NY-16) are to be credited for MSNBC contributor and Mayor De Blasio’s former counsel Maya Wiley’s 2nd place showing (at 84% precincts reporting). However, as Ross offers in the interview and his new post-election Substack hinting at an eventual Adams win, the final story appears to be victory to the interests of multiracial capital.

Caricature of Ross Barkan
Ross Barkan teaches journalism at NYU and St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn. He writes regularly for The Guardian and Jacobin, and has contributed to a range of other publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker and New York magazine. Working as a City Hall reporter, he has written frequently on New York state politics, covering Cuomo for the last eight years. His debut novel, Demolition Night, was published in 2018. His next book, The Prince: Andrew Cuomo, Coronavirus, and the Fall of New York (OR Books) is out June 2021.

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