09/09/2014 08:42 am ET Updated Nov 09, 2014

New York's Undemocratic Primary


Republicans have an annoying habit of referring to the "Democrat" party, because they hate to associate it with being "democratic." Unfortunately today's Democratic primary for Governor in New York isn't particularly democratic at all.

New Yorkers will get the chance to vote for Governor Andrew Cuomo, Zephyr Teachout or Randy Credico. But they will have been deprived of the opportunity to hear where the candidates stand on the issues because Andrew Cuomo didn't think it was necessary or democratic to agree to a debate.

And then he made these bizarre and startling comments to the New York Times.

"I don't think it has anything to do with democracy. I think it has to do with individual campaigns. Sometimes you have debates; sometimes you don't have debates. It depends on the campaign. It depends on the issues."

Cuomo is so completely wrong on all counts. Debates have everything to do with democracy. There is no campaign that would preclude the need for a debate. And there are no issues that would make someone say, "Oh we don't have to debate that." And most importantly, whether or not there is a debate should not be left up to the candidates. It should be a requirement for any campaign for elective office. A debate is not merely a strategic tool you can either use or not. It is a requirement if we seek an informed electorate. It is a requirement if we want to honor the democratic process.

Cuomo already has the insurmountable advantage of a $33 million war chest versus two opponents with virtually no money, and the name recognition of an incumbent and a fairly progressive record of accomplishment to run on, despite his troubling dismantling of the Moreland Commission to fight corruption in Albany. So why would he be afraid of a debate against two political novices?

Not only did Cuomo refuse to debate but he also told the Times, "I've been in many debates that I think were a disservice to democracy."

Debates can be boring or poorly moderated or have some candidates who don't have much to say, but at no time, are they not an exercise in democracy. After those comments, Cuomo backtracked by saying he meant the decidedly unfunny comment as a joke. Which tells you something about the lack of a sense of humor Cuomo has as well as his questionable commitment to democracy.

Cuomo took legal action to keep Zephyr Teachout off the ballot, and when that failed, he resorted to simply ignoring that she existed. In fact, the first and only time Cuomo acknowledged she was running against him was when he made a comment about her the day before the election, without mentioning her name, of course.

But the most appalling and chilling manifestation of Cuomo's imperiousness and arrogance occurred at the Labor Day parade when he stood a couple of feet from Teachout who repeatedly tried to get his attention, and acted as if she wasn't there. This was after Cuomo's campaign manager kept blocking Teachout from getting closer to the King, I mean the Governor. The look on Cuomo's face was dismissive, irritated and deliberately oblivious to what was going on. He saw Teachout and could simply have extended his hand and wished her well. Instead he curiously told the New York Times later, "I never saw her."

It's this kind of evasiveness that makes you understand why Andrew Cuomo dissolved an investigation into unethical behavior in Albany. And it spoke volumes as to the kind of Nixonian-like persona this very bright and capable man has. It couldn't come out in a debate that never happened, but thanks to the viral video of this "non encounter", what it shows about Cuomo will
ultimately make him a loser in a race he won by a landslide.