Why Cuomo?

Harold Meyerson in today’s Washington Post asks an interesting question:

So why on earth would the state’s Democrats want to reelect Gov. Andrew Cuomo?

Why indeed?

Think the idea through for a second: campaign finance reform is dead in the water, though the U.S Attorney for the Sovereign District may have some interesting thoughts on the matter. Taxes on megabanks are down, as is the estate tax. Bill de Blasio’s initiatives – creating a dedicated revenue stream via a tax on incomes over $500,000 per annum to secure universal pre-K, raising the City’s minimum wage above the state’s current $9/hour level – are two more floating corpses with Cuomo’s name on them. The governor is rather too enthusiastic for my taste about charter schools, but hey. On the other hand, this state has joined the national popular vote compact, passed one of the strongest firearms laws in the country and, of course, eagerly fights the heart-rending battle to keep The Late Show in the only place that matters, New York City.

Now comes the part where I’m personally expected to genuflect because marriage equality. Yes, governor, thank you again for making the Fourteenth Amendment apply in some measure even to me.

You might conclude that on a policy level, Andrew Cuomo isn’t all bad; I would tend to agree. Yes, his record is transparently aimed not at Albany but the White House, as if there were snowball’s chance in hell that any New York Democrat not named Hillary Clinton will sit in the Oval anytime soon. Nor would I be all that sanguine about what I sometimes think we’re seeing in rise, a left version of the tea party (albeit, given that we’re Democrats, without the former’s ruthlessness, but damn can we compete on the purity tests).

All things considered, we could do better, we could do worse; a quick glance across the river at the escalating self-immolation of governor whatshisface should clarify how bad it could be. But is it good, good enough?

No. George Bush – the one who got elected, not the other one – called it “that vision thing”, and that’s where Andrew Cuomo fails. Our democracy is sclerotic, with self-perpetuating legislatures, parties filled to bursting with mediocrities churned up through webs of favors personal or in kind, corruption, all while those parts of the state that happen not to be the City and its suburbs rot away into quiet oblivion.

It’s not that New Yorkers don’t care. We were pioneers of the women’s rights movement, the labor movement, abolition, gay rights, the New Deal, you name it, we did it, and not just under the bright lights of the metropolis. New York has always seethed with energy, from Niagara to Williamsburg. That energy is still there.

And it’s Andrew Cuomo’s biggest failure that he remains blind to the potential of New York, maybe because he himself is too small to see it.


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