On the heels of the historic achievement of legalizing same-sex marriage in New York, a small but influential cabal of establishment pundits (who neither live in New York, nor are progressive) have already begun the Andrew Cuomo for President in 2016 buzz.
But while the same-sex marriage achievement is a terrific one (shared by Cuomo and many others), Andrew Cuomo has otherwise governed New York like a red-state conservative (not just a New York Republican, but a Christie-like conservative) who has made the New York Post editorial page swoon: ending taxes for millionaires, while cutting services for the elderly, children, disabled, ignoring environmental hazards to protect the deep-pocketed gas drilling industry, and waging a war on labor. These kinds of things are hailed by the establishment types as "taking on the unions" and "making the hard choices."
But whatever you call them, they ain't progressive. And progressives would be wise to cut this fledgling speculation off at the legs, before it grows tentacles.
Taking his cues from the state's business community and the New York Post editorial page, who has hailed nearly every move he's made, Cuomo has systematically moved to:
-cut 2,600 teachers, and lay off 1,000 city workers, many of whom work in health care for the poor
-submit a budget so extremely right-wing that the Tea Party and campaign manager for Cuomo's erstwhile rival Carl Palladino endorsed it
-actively end the millionaires tax, which had been in existence for years, while at the same time demanding cuts to public workers' salaries, pensions, and threatening layoffs.
-create an Orwellian (and undisclosed) "Committee to Save NY" composed of big business executives, who donated millions of dollars to fund TV ads praising Cuomo.
-neuter the labor-backed Working Families Party which fights for union rights (but is hated by big business)
-show worrisome reluctance to crack down on a dangerous form of natural gas drilling, called hydrofracking, that scientists worry wreaks major damage on New York's drinking water (naturally, the industry loves it)
-refuse interviews with any members of the media, except for the leading conservative columnist in the state, Fred Dicker of the NY Post, thus stifling any questioning from the left.
This corporatist, business-first agenda is not new for Mr. Cuomo. As Attorney General, he failed to use his considerable perch and statutory authority to crack down on the mortgage servicers or credit ratings agencies (remember, New York has the Martin Act, which can go after banks both criminally and civilly without even having to prove intent).
Indeed, while he publicly announced some subpoenas and received some headlines, Cuomo's investigations went nowhere, were literally dropped without a single prosecution, and he reached a code of conduct agreement with credit ratings agencies that the Associated Press reports let them off the hook completely.
Well, all this may be true, but doesn't he deserve major credit for the gay marriage achievement, you might ask?
Indeed. But let's analyze the context of it.
Cuomo, who has harbored big ambitions for a long time, knows that the conservative record he has amassed serves him well statewide in New York (where his performance is approved by six in ten Republicans, but just 45 percent of voters in union households, and hailed by every conservative editorial page and business group) but would never pass muster in a Democratic primary for president. So he knew he had to have a high profile progressive achievement.
But, more importantly, it also was critical to Cuomo for another reason: his very tortured past with the gay community.
As has been reported many times, Cuomo was the campaign manager for his father Mario's race against Ed Koch, when a number of "Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo" posters littered the streets of New York. While Andrew denied his involvement in the posters, many involved in the campaign said otherwise.
Pushing for gay marriage, then, while a laudable and important goal, did not come out of Cuomo's long, principled devotion to the cause (he was one of the later converts among New York officials to supporting same-sex marriage), but rather due to his own political calculations. That's fine -- the ends justify the means, and all that. But it means he won't necessarily be on the progressive side of other issues (especially if monied interests oppose it).
In short, Andrew Cuomo is a very able and competent political strategist and practitioner of government, who deserves a lot of credit for helping shepherd gay marriage through the legislature in New York. He is not, however, a progressive leader. Perhaps more significantly, he is an excellent tactician who is willing to push for conservative goals (when convenient) -- and because of his skill, can actually get those conservative goals accomplished. That's dangerous.
So before allowing the media (and Cuomo's emissaries, quietly) to stoke the buzz about a 2016 presidency, Democrats and progressives should educate themselves and others to know the full Cuomo story, and stop this dead in its tracks.
Because it may be more than just speculation.