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If I Could Ask Andrew Cuomo a Question

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New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked off his drive for the Democratic nomination for president with a statewide People First campaign.

Cuomo is positioning himself as a "centrist" or rightward leaning Democrat. It is still not clear if he hopes to run in 2016, or in 2012 if Obama falters. Cuomo's father Mario, also a New York State governor, was well known for both his oratory skill and Hamlet-like streak ("to run or not to run"). He was considered a potential Democratic candidate for president in the 1980s and early 1990s, but never threw his hat into the ring.

Andrew Cuomo spoke at Hofstra University on Monday, May 16. I decided not to attend when I learned there would be no questioning of the governor, either by a panel or from the floor. I did get to see and hear his 25-minute speech on YouTube.

In the speech Cuomo spoke in favor of same-sex marriage and end to corruption in state government, both of which I support, but neither of which will change very much in New York State. He also endorsed a property tax freeze which will supposedly improve the climate for job creation in New York and sharp cuts in state education spending, both of which I oppose. Legislated tax caps and freezes have been a disaster in California, bringing the state to the brink of bankruptcy. Sharp cuts in education spending aren't going to improve education, it is going to mean the lay-off of a large number of excellent young teachers, and it is going to put tremendous economic pressure on hard-pressed localities. As best as I can see, the major thrust of the Cuomo agenda is a recipe for disaster.

If I could have asked Andrew Cuomo a question, this is what I would ask.

In 1984, a Democratic governor of the State of New York named Mario Cuomo argued that "a society as blessed as ours, the most affluent democracy in the world's history, one that can spend trillions on instruments of destruction, ought to be able to help the middle class in its struggle, ought to be able to find work for all who can do it, room at the table, shelter for the homeless, care for the elderly and infirm, and hope for the destitute." He rejected tax cuts for the wealthy and programs that make the rich richer. Today a different Governor Cuomo champions a budget that decimates education in the state, squeezes the poorest and weakest New Yorkers, and gives tax breaks to the rich. My question is: when did you reject your father's philosophy and become a Tea Party Republican?

Mario Cuomo's speech at the 1984 Democratic Party National Convention is worth reading. It spells out a liberal agenda for the United States and a liberal philosophy of government. Democratic Party politicians should read it to remind themselves what they are supposed to stand for and why people should vote for them rather than their opponents.

Some of the key points in the speech follow:

The difference between Democrats and Republicans has always been measured in courage and confidence. The Republicans believe that the wagon train will not make it to the frontier unless some of the old, some of the young, some of the weak are left behind by the side of the trail... We Democrats believe that we can make it all the way with the whole family intact, and we have more than once. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt lifted himself from his wheelchair to lift this nation from its knees -- wagon train after wagon train -- to new frontiers of education, housing, peace; the whole family aboard, constantly reaching out to extend and enlarge that family; lifting them up into the wagon on the way; blacks and Hispanics, and people of every ethnic group, and native Americans -- all those struggling to build their families and claim some small share of America. For nearly 50 years we carried them all to new levels of comfort, and security, and dignity, even affluence. And remember this, some of us in this room today are here only because this nation had that kind of confidence. And it would be wrong to forget that... We Democrats still have a dream. We still believe in this nation's future. And this is our answer to the question. This is our credo: we believe in only the government we need, but we insist on all the government we need... We believe in a government strong enough to use words like "love" and "compassion" and smart enough to convert our noblest aspirations into practical realities. We believe in encouraging the talented, but we believe that while survival of the fittest may be a good working description of the process of evolution, a government of humans should elevate itself to a higher order... We believe as Democrats, that a society as blessed as ours, the most affluent democracy in the world's history, one that can spend trillions on instruments of destruction, ought to be able to help the middle class in its struggle, ought to be able to find work for all who can do it, room at the table, shelter for the homeless, care for the elderly and infirm, and hope for the destitute.

Something else that Little Andy needs to be reminded of. In his speech, Papa Mario explained that as Democrats, "We believe proudly in the union movement." Based on his behavior towards teachers and the teachers' union, as well as other public employee unions, Andy seems to have missed that part of the speech.