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New Year's Omens in the Big Apple

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Two events bracketed the Bloomberg-Lady Gaga waltz at midnight New Years' Eve in Times Square. For those who spend the first day of the year watching for omens, they were better than the Delphic Oracle.

Event One was the New Years' Eve invasion of Zuccotti Park by the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

It was a shrewd reminder that OWS is still alive and kicking, and planning to be a major part of the events of 2012. OWS had a very good 2011, but ended more with a whimper than a bang when the Bloomberg eviction stuck. OWS has two major accomplishments to its' credit; an international network of people and places that works like a charm and a complete domination of the political vocabulary.

The 99% versus the 1% made income inequality the driving issue in campaigns and daily conversation. It displaced the austerity/Obama's-an-alien message that gave the Tea Party its' 2010 victory. Two such victories are not chopped liver. The dramatic reassertion of the OWS physical presence on New Years' Eve is a reminder not to forget how powerful it is.

Event Two was a traditional Albany ritual of no particular significance, the Governor's New Years' Day Reception at the Executive Mansion.

It got elevated when the NY Times decided to use it as proof that Governor Andrew Cuomo had a very good 2011 and everyone knew it. The Times piece had a line of real people expressing their admiration and support. It's probably a pretty good marker for where Cuomo stands with New Yorkers, and a tribute to his technical skills at governance and politics. Elected on an Eric Cantor-like economic platform of austerity and hostility to unions, Cuomo pounded out opposition to the Millionaires Tax as his defining position. He artfully stayed on message through his first budget, earning him some ideological support from the Right (NY Post) and a reputation as a promise keeper with everyone else. When reality impinged and his budget was about to go haywire he pivoted in a New York Minute and demanded the legislature show up and adopt a modified Millionaire's Tax within 72 hours. It did. And as polls and the Times story show, he's suffered absolutely no political damage as a result of abandoning his defining position.

The two stories are joined at the hip. OWS, if it has legs, will help define the politics of 2012, and the reoccupation of Zuccotti Park put everyone on notice. Cuomo could make his Millionaire's Tax move without political penalty only because OWS had changed the terms of debate from austerity to income inequality. If Albany can do it, maybe Washington will as well. Republicans cannot win a general election without acknowledging that there's a gap between the 99% whose votes they need, and the 1% whose interests they serve. But there is no sign that Mitt Romney, John Boehner, Newt Gingrich, Eric Cantor or others have the political skills of Andrew Cuomo. And that means the New Year's omens from Albany and Zuccotti Park smile on Barack Obama.

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