Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not a popular guy on this blog. But when I leave the Kos echo chamber I find that he is very popular among people who keep up with politics. I live in San Francisco, which is very blue of course, but also has a strong libertarian streak running through its newer transplants. A pol like Cuomo is speaking their language.
Pretty scary if you are a progressive.
Yet New York progressives now worry that the party's future lies not with the city's mayor — but the state's governor. Though Andrew Cuomo is frequently described as a centrist or a moderate, that's too simplistic. On social and cultural issues, the governor has fought hard for progressive priorities, and managed to win groundbreaking new laws on same-sex marriage and gun control. Indeed, he may have achieved more on those issues than any other Democratic governor in office today.On gun control especially, it really did surprise me how forcefully he fought.
On economic issues, though, Cuomo has blazed a very different trail. Repeatedly, Cuomo has tried to cut taxes, particularly for the wealthy. He's cut the estate tax, repealed the state's bank tax, capped local property taxes, and reduced an existing tax on millionaires. He's stymied de Blasio's attempts to raise New York City's taxes on the rich and to increase the city's minimum wage. And he's consistently been skeptical about the value of government spending, and proven willing to cut billions from health and education. "He's adopted the philosophical and political posture that the problem with government is overtaxing and overspending," former assemblyman Richard Brodsky tells me. "How is that different from a Tea Party conservative?"The capping of property taxes is where I really disagree with him. That is as local as it gets.
Many New York progressives think that Cuomo has made a bet on what Democrats truly care about — that if he gives activists what they want on social issues, he can get away with giving the wealthy what they want on economic issues. Worse, they fear the combination might be politically irresistible to the Democratic Party: as the rich get richer and the Supreme Court systematically dismantles limits on money in politics, what if a Democrat who pleases the wealthy becomes the only kind of Democrat who can win an election?
Really hurts schools. As for social issues, we have to admit at some point that we care about those as much as the GOP. We raise hell about income inequality during off years, but as soon as it is time to vote, our pols bang the abortion drum and we dance, myself included. My for support for HRC is mainly because of the courts. Sad huh? I was hoping for a Warren run up until earlier this year, when I accepted that she isn't running. Income inequality has to be the centerpiece of a campaign in order to draw attention to it. Warren can credibly do that. No one else can. So the courts and social issues are the glue that binds us, and Gov. Cuomo knows that.
Meanwhile, on social and cultural issues, Cuomo was rapidly becoming a progressive hero. During his campaign, Cuomo had pledged to enact a same-sex marriage law. As he took office, only five states in the country had extended that right — all were far smaller than New York, and most did so after a court ruling spurred action. The most recent push for a New York bill took place in 2009, when both houses of the legislature were controlled by Democrats. But the state Senate voted down a marriage bill 38 to 24, in a dispiriting defeat. Since then, the GOP had taken control of the chamber — and not a single Republican state senator backed marriage equality.I have to admit. pretty fucking impressive!!!!
Though the challenges looked stark, Cuomo embraced the issue as a centerpiece of his first-year agenda. "We believe in justice for all — then let's pass marriage equality this year once and for all," he said in his State of the State address. Cuomo's strategy was to keep the Democrats united, and peel off a few crucial GOP moderates. He called representatives of several gay rights activist groups into a meeting, criticized them for internal rivalries and disorganization, and told them to unite under one banner — which they soon did. Richard Socarides, a former Clinton administration official and same-sex marriage activist, was in attendance. "The governor looked at me and said, 'I'm gonna fight harder for this than anything I have ever fought for,'" Socarides recounts.
Cuomo made good on his promise. He relentlessly lobbied moderate Republican senators. When they told him they feared a backlash from voters in their districts, Cuomo's solution — as in the budget fight — was money. He met with three hedge fund billionaires, and convinced them to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars for ads defending the vulnerable Republicans.
On June 24, 2011, the late-night vote came down to the wire — but four Republicans chose to cross party lines, and the bill passed 33 to 29. Cuomo walked onto the Senate floor minutes later and raised his fist to the sky, as supporters cheered. Just over an hour later, he went up to his office on the second floor of the State Capitol, and signed same-sex marriage into law. "What this state said today brings this discussion of marriage equality to a new plane," Cuomo said. "That's the power and the beauty of New York. The other states look to New York for the progressive direction. And what we said today is — you look to New York once again!"
Bill Clinton put liberals on the sidelines for eight years (maybe longer) by using many of the tactics that Gov. Cuomo is using. Just because he is unpopular here, we should take him seriously as a pol. If for some reason Hillary doesn't run, watch out. He can raise the money; has a dynastic name and is very right on social issues. Outside the Kos bubble, we are not the mainstream of the party.
Ten years ago, Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter with Kansas? was published. In it, Frank argued that the Republican Party appealed to rural, white, low-income voters with social issues — God, guns, and gays — so they'd accept economic policies that go against their own self-interest and benefit the wealthy. Since then, Frank tells me, "The table has really been turned on a lot of those social issues. On gay marriage, public opinion has shifted so dramatically that it's actually Democrats who are bringing it up whenever they can, and using it as their own successful wedge issue." Meanwhile, economic issues have come increasingly to the forefront among Republican voters and activists.Take the time to read the article. It gives a perspective of this guy that you will never see here.
Could the Kansas strategy now be adopted by the Democratic Party? "I think that's probably true to a certain degree," Frank says. "There are a certain number of Democrats who don't really understand why people are upset over the fate of working class America, but gay marriage and other culture war issues are very resonant to them." And, importantly, that's the group that has the money. "Democrats are supposed to be the party of the workers and the poor, but they're also the party of the professional class, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the universities," Frank continues. "And until 2008, they thought of themselves as the party of Wall Street — they used to celebrate it as where innovation was happening. The Democratic Party that exists today isn't interested in doing anything substantive about inequality, because it would be costly to all those Democratic donors."