This week we learned of the passing of a liberal giant, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who died on New Years Day, just hours after his son, Andrew was sworn in for his own second term as New York’s Governor. Mario Cuomo was perhaps a legend, not just in New York politics, but in American politics. Amassing praise from people from across the political spectrum, both Democrats and Republicans had nothing but positive things to say about the 3 term former governor. Even those who disagreed with his policies commended Cuomo on his passion to help the people he served, citing his own humbled upbringing.
Many are pointing to Cuomo’s 1984 Democratic Convention keynote address in San Francisco as a speech that essentially summed up his liberal philosophy. Directly taking on President Ronald Reagan’s conservative agenda, Cuomo countered the president’s “shining city on a hill” view of the country, with a contrasting view of his own. That vision was “a tale of two cities”. Cuomo’s populism and progressivism made him significantly popular with the Democratic party, enough to where he was courted multiple times to run for the Democratic nominee for president in 1988 and 1992.
A Mario Cuomo presidential campaign could have potentially changed history as we know it. It was during that time period that Democrats were having a hard time winning elections due to having bad candidates and being deemed too liberal – similar to the problem Republicans are having in today’s politics. But Mario Cuomo may have potentially been a different story. While he has been deemed a liberal lion, he was also a great orator and someone people can relate to. One of the reasons that President Reagan was so popular was because he, too, was great with rhetoric. I can imagine that if Mario Cuomo went up against George Bush, the campaign would have been a lot different in ’88 or ’92.
Now, the Real Talk…
Cuomo’s loss is the loss of a liberal voice that always spoke on behalf of the less fortunate and the working class. Few leaders stand up for true progressive principles in today’s politics. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who has been encouraged to run for president in 2016, has very similar stances to the former New York governor. Many people can relate to Warren with her progressive and populist rhetoric, especially in a time where people have suffered in this great economic recession and the recovery is slow, the middle class is shrinking, and wages are only slowly rising. Specific issues such as federal regulations on the financial industry, tacking student load debt, and standing up for the middle class, are today’s issues that Mario Cuomo would be very supportive of, had he still been in an office.
Others point to New York City’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio who won over 60% of the vote after taking more progressive stances on issues such as education, poverty, and police reform. While de Blasio’s year started off well, things have been rough for him after protests broke out around police brutality in many parts of the country. It will be interesting to see if de Blasio’s rhetoric and his liberal stances can withstand his current strife in New York City against the police union after the murder of the two police officers in December, whose deaths was ridiculously blamed de Blasio and comments he made regarding the Staten Island grand jury decision on Eric Garner weeks earlier.
One might also think of Mario Cuomo’s son, current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). While the younger Cuomo has been thought of as a potential 2016 candidate for president, he doesn’t seem to be the liberal powerhouse his father once was. He’s not quite the orator his father was and as others point out, he seems to embrace the more moderate Democratic platforms not unlike that of the Clintons.
Barack Obama was once considered a liberal leader, even earning the name as the most liberal senator in Congress. However, the president has often conceded those liberal and progressive principles much to my own disappointment. I typically support the president and his willingness to compromise to get things done in this generally “do-nothing” government. However, one thing that I have taken away from the political life of Mario Cuomo is the fact that he has shown that it is possible to be and effective lawmaker while staying true to your own principles.
Other Headlines… In the News
New York Times – Mario Cuomo’s Life in Public Service
Washington Times – Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, ‘Hamlet of the Hudson,’ dies at 82