He’s got problems. He’s not black. He’s not Muslim. He’s not undocumented. He’s not transgender, or even gay from what we can tell. And he doesn’t have a vagina. He lacks every apparent qualification necessary for nomination by the Democrats. But that won’t prevent Mario’s boy from doing everything he can to achieve what his father couldn’t. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has begun his run for the presidency.
Delivering the first of six State of the State addresses planned around the state this week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday located the cure to the nation’s political fever in New York State, implicitly offering himself as an antidote to a president-elect whose name went unmentioned.
“New York knows that our progressive principles of acceptance and diversity are not the enemy of our middle class, and we know that middle-class success is not the enemy of our progressive beliefs,” he said. “In fact, it was the progressive policies that created the nation’s middle class in the first place.”
Smart. He learned at least one lesson from the failed Hillary Clinton campaign, to appeal to the working middle class as did her husband when he won the presidency. But is it close enough to utter the words that “middle-class success is not the enemy of our progressive beliefs”?
Lines drawn from the Elizabeth Warren syllabus got the Cuomo treatment (at one point, he noted that the Wall Street executives who presided over the financial crisis were never punished). One of Mr. Cuomo’s chief proposals on Monday was a “middle-class recovery act” that he said would provide jobs and erect infrastructure, expand access to education and lower taxes.
Sounds great, right?
There were blink-and-you’d-miss-it proposals covering what seemed like the whole spectrum of liberal causes. Doubling the child-care tax credit for more than 200,000 families. Executive orders intended to reduce a wage gap for women working for the state. Criminal justice reforms affecting the state’s bail system, recordings of police interrogations, the age of criminal liability and access to a speedy trial. Same-day voter registration and early voting.
Words that warm our hearts. But wait a sec. Isn’t Andy already governor? Wasn’t he elected in 2010, and re-elected in 2014? Words are great, and more than enough for some who want so desperately to believe, but when a politician is in his second term of office, he’s got a record.
Just the other day, somebody vetoed a law enacted by the New York State Legislature that was a decade in the making to move indigent defense out of the hands of county politicians and create a statewide indigent defense system. The need for this was manifest. The cost for this change was net/net the same, possibly even less expensive than before by the coordination of services. The defense bar and state Democrats had fought for this for years, and it was finally achieved. And then Cuomo vetoed it. He killed it.
Then there was that absurd knife law that gave tens of thousands of law-abiding working people a criminal conviction so cops would have an excuse to get off the street and do paperwork on overtime. The law prompted by hysteria of street gangs in movies wielding World War II paratrooper knives, which now arrested people for knives sold by the thousands at Home Depot. And the lege finally, finally, passed a law to end the prosecution of the working middle class. And then Cuomo vetoed it. He killed that too.
So whom is Cuomo helping as of his second term as governor? Surely, he must be doing something, right? Well, he has reformed the meaning of sexual assault on campus so that women who feel as if they were raped will be able to exact revenge on their counterparts. And he created the Moreland Commission to investigate the massive ethical problems in Albany, which he summarily shut down when they turned their attention to him.
But what does he propose for the future?
Mr. Cuomo proposed a defense fund guaranteeing legal representation to immigrants, as well as passing the Dream Act, a long-stalled piece of legislation that would open financial aid at state colleges to undocumented immigrants. For environmentalists, Mr. Cuomo unveiled a deal, reported by The New York Times on Friday, that would lead to the shutdown of Indian Point, a nuclear plant north of New York City.
The governor had already announced several initiatives before the speech, including a pledge to cover tuition costs at state universities and community colleges for families making up to $125,000 a year.
Say what? The same guy who vetoes indigent defense reform proposed paying for lawyers for immigrants? Paying for free college? For undocumented immigrants? But he vetoed the indigent defense law?
The taxes in New York are, to be kind, high. The infrastructure is, to be kind, old. The legal system is, to be kind, a disaster. When Andy Cuomo took office, his first act was to remove concrete barriers from in front of the capital.
The question now is whether this symbolic gesture reflects a change in how the Governor of the State of New York plans to do business, or is merely a gesture. As I did when Eliot Spitzer assumed office, I wish Andrew Cuomo both the luck and fortitude to bring the legal system of New York back to its historic position of leadership and courage, an example of how a government can function by protecting the civil rights and individual freedoms of its citizens.
Thank you, Andrew Cuomo, for tearing down that wall. But it’s only the first step. I hope you inherited the strength of your father, even though Chris got the good looks.
We’re five years down the road, with nothing to show for it. And now a privileged white cis male wants to be president of all the people he neglected up to now.