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Cynthia Nixon and the growing celebritisation of US politics

April 3, 2018

6:03 PM

3 April 2018

6:03 PM

She was the angry one from Sex in the City, and now Cynthia Nixon is venting her spleen on behalf of the voters of New York.

Last month, Nixon launched her pitch to challenge incumbent Andrew Cuomo as the Democratic candidate for the governorship of New York, invoking the wrath of many New Yorkers over the state’s crumbling transport links and cash-starved schools.

And why not? In an era when a real estate mogul turned reality TV star occupies the White House and a chat show queen is the great black hope to replace him, why shouldn’t Nixon segue from sipping martinis with Carrie and the gang to juggling New York’s $168 billion budget?

Wednesday sees Nixon’s first major television interview of her campaign – an in-depth, sit-down on The Wendy Williams Show.

Now, Wendy is no slouch as an interviewer. Indeed, the last time Nixon ventured on to her sofa Williams managed to prise out the startling nugget that she considers herself more a Charlotte than a Miranda. But as a forum for political scrutiny it’s hardly Meet the Press.

And there’s the rub about the growing celebritization of US politics.

If you are Cynthia Nixon – or Donald Trump or Arnold Schwarzenegger – it makes perfect sense to reach over the heads of the mainstream media – the fake news, the discredited experts – to appeal directly to the electorate.

The Wendy Williams Show draws in up to two million viewers, including many voters from the key demographics Nixon is targeting in the gubernatorial race.

As her campaign manager Rebecca Katz told Variety:

“We win by getting her in front of voters, because we actually want them to see the real Cynthia. And that’s what we get with Wendy. Her viewers are a large and crucial part of the electorate.”

And no tricky questions about, say, Nixon’s lack of political experience or aptitude for one of the most powerful positions in US local government, responsible for services ranging from public housing and road maintenance to prisons and even the regulation of New York’s iconic yellow cabs.

In a country so tired of politics that to be a career politician is a positive disadvantage when seeking the highest offices, the concept of a lifetime of dedicated public service goes out the window.

Celebrities are now the perfect candidates – none of the baggage of compromise and disappointment which comes with years of playing the political game, and the face and name recognition crucial for capturing voters’ attention in an era of Netflix and YouTube.

Why would any bright twenty-something contemplate running for office when they know that 30 years down the track their ambitions are likely to be thwarted by Stormi Jenner, or Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky or Barron Trump?

Nixon has scored something of a triumph in recent days by wittily appropriating as a campaign slogan – complete with buttons – her dismissal by Cuomo supporter Christine Quinn as an “unqualified lesbian.”

Quinn, who is herself gay, was unwise to have used Nixon’s sexuality as a jibe; but the first half of her criticism stands.

As The Wendy Williams Show appearance suggests: Nixon is utterly unqualified for the post she seeks. And thus not unlikely to succeed.

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