No one is bigger, bolder and more focused than Andrew Cuomo. Nothing is accidental, the levers of power are faultlessly pulled and there's always a plan. That's made him a very effective governor of New York. But the policies he has so effectively pursued are an entirely different matter. And those have policy and political consequences that are national in impact.
It's easy to see what he does well. This week New York passed its fourth consecutive on-time budget, in a state where late budgets were symbols of government dysfunction. Things happen now. But New York also has a series of new Cuomo policies. Some are Left Left and some are Right Right.
On social and identity issues, Cuomo has insisted on and won a series of hard Left victories. Gay marriage, gun restrictions, reproductive rights and more have been jammed past the Republicans in the State Senate. For Democrats who focus on these issues he's a hero.
On economic issues, Cuomo has headed in the opposite direction. His tax, spending and incentive policies are those that Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz could embrace in a heartbeat. Big tax cuts for business and the wealthy, spending cuts, tax caps, corporate giveaways are now the explicit and trumpeted economic policies of New York. These were jammed past the Democrats in the State Assembly.
Cuomo is not a centrist. In neither the social or economic spheres is he a moderate. He's got hard ideological positions and he's running for re-election on them. ( For more on this Google "progractionary"). It's not going to be a close election. He's got $33 million in the bank and a moribund Republican Party trying to oppose him.
But in the planned universe of Andrew Cuomo there's more afoot than re-election. He's thinking nationally. Hillary aside, can Cuomo compete in 2016?
Conventional wisdom has the national Democratic Party moving left on issues like income inequality, taxing the wealthy and ending the era of supply-side economics. Spurring demand by increasing incomes for middle class, working, and poor families is the future.
Cuomo is betting otherwise. And New York's progressives are confronting a tough decision. Stick with Cuomo in spite of his economic policies? Split off and run a third-party candidate? Sit in their hands?
The decision will fall to New York's Working Families Party, the nation's most powerful and effective progressive political organization and a model for similar efforts across the nation. Rank-and-file WFPers are increasing unhappy with nominating someone they decry as "Governor 1 percent." WFP leadership has been trying to leverage major political reforms including public campaign finance, perhaps nominating Cuomo in spite of his economic policies. It's not clear where the party is headed.
If Cuomo can maneuver a nomination by New York's left wing, he has strong evidence that the national Democratic Party could do the same. If he can't he shows up in Iowa with the Scarlet Letter of tea Party austerity around his neck.
It won't be easy for him. Reflecting member discontent the WFP reaction to the Cuomo budget was harsh: "Today's budget enriches the 1 percent and Wall Street corporations. It misses a chance to put forth a progressive vision, and serves only to increase political and economic inequality. " If the Party sticks with its economic vision, Cuomo will have a hard time getting the line.
Does today's Left have a core economic message? Can you cut taxes for the 1 percent and run as a progressive? Can the Working Families model work in other states if no one knows what it stands for?
The decision will be made by the end of May. It will be a bumpy and interesting two months.