There’s clearly a lot of momentum around candidates like Cabán, people who actually represent the people in their communities. She is from the community she’s representing. Joe Crowley wasn’t even raising his kids in Queens. I know you wrote something on this for The Cut about the new progressives taking down the Establishment. Tell me about seeing these women, being inspired by them, being in your own right part of that. What has it been like in the past year to see this progress?
I just think there is a really exciting way where young women in New York state, and also on a national level, that they’re really working together in a really powerful way. I was so thrilled when AOC endorsed me, and she was such a great help during our campaign, but also Jessica Ramos, who was elected in Queens, she’s been such a power in the legislature with all her anti-IDC [Independent Democratic Conference] people. I feel like I never would have run for governor if attorney Zephyr Teachout hadn’t done it four years before and made such a tremendous showing. She’s one of the people who recruited me to run. Until she herself was running for a different position, she was our treasurer. I feel like there is a way in which we’re redefining how politicians work together. We feel like, we’re coming in, we’re trying to take over, and we’re movement politicians. We’re trying to bring each other along because we’re stronger that way. The more we help each other, the better off we are.
Do you see that also happening within the Establishment?
It’s not a traditional Democratic tenet. It’s part of the movement. We’re the exception, not the rule.
So how do you become the rule?
We keep getting elected, we keep identifying each other, and saying, ‘Hey, you liked me? Take a look at this candidate.’ I think there is such a hunger on the part of the electorate for people who are really trotting out big, bold ideas—in terms of climate change, in terms of economic inequality, in terms of criminal justice reform, particularly through a racial lens. I think that—because a lot of us have never run for office before—we’re really coming very directly from populations that are wanting change. We’re more focused on the change we want to bring than the long-term health and fundraising of our political careers.
You’ve mentioned, though, that you wouldn’t run again. Would you?
I mean, I have a career that I love that I’ve been at for 41 years. I really love it. I didn’t run because I wanted to be in politics; I ran because I wanted someone to run against Cuomo and bring attention to all these issues. I didn’t work for a year and a half. I didn’t earn any money for my family or myself for a year and a half. It’s not something you can do on the side. Supporting other people, you can do on the side. But you can’t run for office yourself as a side job.
You said you were inspired by Glenda Jackson, right?
Right. I worked with Glenda when I was 23, and she did one more play after that, and then she ran for Parliament and was gone for 26 years. We were very aware that she was going to run. She’s amazing. And I mean, look at her. Look at her!
If you had won, you would have wanted to be governor, right? You didn’t just run to draw attention to the issues.
Yes! We ran as hard as we could to win.
It’s been a bit over a year since you announced you were running. How has the year been? It’s not that you’re slowing down in terms of your activism, but how has running changed the way you’ve gotten involved? Or the causes you’re focussed on?
I think we needed to recuperate as a family and get back to being together. And I needed to get back to work eventually. In New York, it is really exciting what has happened in this past year. I’ve been involved with these issues, specifically in New York state, since my oldest kid, who is going to be 23, was five. I think there is very much a sense that all these seeds that we have been sowing for so long are now really blooming. We just have to keep at it. Across the country, it’s a truly terrifying time. I’m not quite old enough to really, really remember the Vietnam War protests, except as a child, but it’s like that. People are so involved because Trump is the president. People are so involved because of the planet and because of Black Lives Matter and because economic inequality is just destroying us. It’s this paradox—when times are really, really bad, that’s when people step up.
Do you have guidance for people who are exhausted by this point? Everyday there’s a new terrible thing to combat. How do you convince people that these fights are actually worth it?
Look at what is happening to Jeffrey Epstein, this is amazing. This is a sea change. They have to prosecute him; they don’t have a choice anymore. If you look at #MeToo—we haven’t figured out quite how to handle it, but we are at least saying, ‘I don’t care how powerful you are; I don’t care how wealthy you are. If you rape girls, you’re going to be prosecuted.’ You look at all these men that were protected for so long. The thing about the ‘60s was that people were so angry and so horrified by women and children and men being burned by our government, the horror of it. I think a lot of our country is as horrified right now by what we’re doing on our own soil with immigrants. My oldest kid, his grandparents are Holocaust survivors, and he was part of the Never Again demonstration in Chicago two days ago.
The thing that they knew in the ‘60s was that it was a movement that couldn’t just run on vitriol. That it had to also have a lot of humour and creativity. You don’t want to go to a thing where you just scream and are upset. You want there to be puppets and you want there to be funny signs. And you want it to be a thing that people can bring their kids to. That’s what I think the great thing about the Women’s March was. First, just how diverse they were in every way. But also with the pussy hats. I still have photos on my phone of hilarious signs. Take your anger and make your point creatively and with humour—it’ll go a lot further. You have a sign that says,“Fuck the president”, like, okay. That’s one way of saying it. It’s not going to stay with someone.