Quid Pro Cuomo

Governor Cuomo, thinking about womens' equality with Christie Brinkley.

Governor Cuomo, thinking about women’s equality.

The torch has been passed from Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is now officially the worst Democrat in the Universe.

I had high hopes for his father, Mario. Pére Cuomo was poised to contest Bill Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president in 1992, but he lost his nerve at the eleventh hour. The son has the virtue of never having raised anyone’s hopes.

In the endless arguments between Democratic moderates and those to their left, the constant exhortation from the center is to confine dissent to primaries, then pull together in the general to beat this year’s satanic Republican. Those who have the effrontery to go third party are cast as history’s greatest monsters.

So what is the lesson learned from the leadership of Mr. Cuomo? In New York State and a few other places, there is the noble, labor-liberal organization known as the Working Families Party. (When I hear the expression ‘working families,’ I get visions of toddlers swinging hoes, toiling in the potato fields, but I digress.) Their strategy is to support Democrats in general elections on their own separate ballot line. The hope is that the promise of their support will encourage the mainline candidates to respect and even take up some of their political causes.

It should go without saying that no Democratic candidate in New York or most other places has a prayer of winning a general election without liberal support. One might think that this would lend the WFP some serious leverage, but one would be wrong. The leverage of the WFP depends on their ability to threaten to withhold support in a general election, but that is not how they roll. They are congenitally predisposed to pull behind the Democrat who wins the nomination.



Enter Zephyr Teachout, brilliant lady law professor with spotless liberal credentials (but not too liberal!) and the cool name, blessed with awesome campaign trail kung-fu. Zephyr had the bright idea to contest for the gubernatorial nomination as the champion of the WFP. The WFP held a nominating convention and said, we don’t need no champion, we’d rather remain the crazy aunt in the fifth-floor walk-up. The WFP, not without the strong urging of erstwhile anti-inequality champion Bill DeBlasio, nominated Cuomo at their convention. To garner the endorsement, the governor made a number of commitments pertaining to WFP issues. Unfortunately, nobody thought they needed to make the governor promise not to try to destroy the WFP.

Zephyr decided to run in the primary anyway and did well, thank you very much. She got over 30 percent of the vote. So fine, now it’s time for everybody to pull together, right? The WFP behaved themselves. They put Cuomo on their ballot line. How does the governor repay them?

The governor fabricates an utterly fake political party called the “Women’s Equality Party” with its own ballot line to leech off WFP votes. (WEP, not WFP — get it?) The WFP will need a certain minimum number of votes to retain its ballot status. So in return for their support, Mr. Cuomo has connived to drive them off future ballots.

Cuomo staged a rally for the mythical WEP featuring an appearance by Hillary Clinton. The WEP public relations effort includes rich female celebrities (Anna Wintour, Christie Brinkley, Lena Dunham, etc.) and an array of Democratic liberals who have forfeited any claims to progressive politics. Note, they could easily support Cuomo by supporting a vote for the WFP, who is included on their ballot line. Support for Cuomo’s ersatz party is really a decision to block any leftward evolution of politics in New York.

Cuomo, Clinton, and the other ex-liberal WEP endorsers thereby surrender the usual argument they trot out in response to liberal criticism — “We agree with your goals, we disagree on tactics argle bargle . . . ” They do not agree with liberal goals, even modest ones. If they did, they would not support Cuomo’s straight-out effort to sabotage the WFP. If they were good Democrats, they would criticize Cuomo for deliberately endorsing enough Republicans to tilt the State Senate to Republican control, thereby blocking Democratic pressure from the entire state legislature for more progressive policies. The grip of the 1% on the New York State Democratic Party goes deep.

howieThe choices at this stage are not easy. New York liberals could suck it up and vote WFP in defense of their ballot line. Or they could bail on the Democrats and vote for Howie Hawkins of the New York Green Party. It’s hard to pass up a chance to vote for a guy named ‘Howie.’ Hawkins cannot win the election, but he could put a dent in Cuomo’s victory. He could also put a dent in the WFP vote and help them lose their ballot line. The latter would not upset the Democratic establishment, since that’s exactly what they’re up to themselves.

The difficulty is that a Hawkins protest vote weakens the WFP. Is this a problem? It isn’t if you think the WFP isn’t worth strengthening, because the Democratic Party is not worth supporting. A commitment to the WFP is a commitment to stay in the Democratic Party and fight for its leadership. But the Democratic Party leadership, liberal as all get-out by some measures, is not willing to tolerate well-behaved dissent. So why stay with it?

The obvious answer is, don’t give New York away to the G.O.P. This is some reason to discount the dangers of this. We’re not talking United States Supreme Court/invading the Middle East here. New York has survived Republicans before. The state survived Pataki, the city survived the loathsome Giuliani and the moderate Bloomberg.

The simple solution is, don’t try to be tricky and outsmart yourself. Vote for what you’re really for. If you’re for the Green Party platform, vote for it. Don’t be a potted plant. As the old saying goes, if you vote for what you don’t  want, you’re sure to get it. The WFP might survive a good third party showing. It might even benefit from it. If it can’t, maybe it’s not the best vehicle to move New York politics to the left. The other reason to vote Green is to punish Cuomo. He deserves it. It could put some sand in the gears of any presidential campaign he might contemplate. That would be Good For America too.

There’s some funny stuff in The Nation to the effect that voting for Cuomo will “pressure Cuomo.” That’s a little too zen for me. Kudos to the magazine for allowing Executive Editor Richard Kim to dissent with a case for Hawkins.

Here’s hoping somebody changes his name to Andy Como and runs for governor. If he (or she) does, I can promise the support of the Afro-Jewish Peoples Party.



Quid Pro Cuomo — 8 Comments

  1. Max, you’re leaving out that if the WFP can’t get 50,000 votes on its top line, that is votes for Cuomo on the WFP line, it’s in deep trouble, because it loses its automatic line on the ballot. This would not be good for left-liberals. On the other hand, I see your point and have said, quietly, since I know many WFP affiliated people, that I can’t stomach voting for Cuomo. WFP is deathly afraid lots of its usual supporters feel as I do. So there’s a lot of unhappy lining up to save the party for another day. I guess I want to vote for someone other than Cuomo, have the WFP get 50,000 Cuomo votes and not one damn vote more, and have that fraudulent Women’s party get two votes (Hillary and Bill). But you can’t always get what you want.

  2. Yes I talked about the problem for the WFP if people vote Green. Rather than see it emotionally, it does raise again the question of the value of the WFP fusion approach. If your whole strategy depends on the Dem powers allowing you to compete for influence, and they refuse to play according to any basic norm of mutual respect, the strategy needs reexamination.

  3. So we’re to reward years and years of incredible, creative, very hard work by WFP organizers — by destroying their achievement over one possible mistake. At the same time, we’re actually to reward Andrew Cuomo, villain of the piece, by giving him what he wants in this election — the removal of the irritating, pro-worker WFP from the ballot. There is a reason why he and his ilk don’t worry about the Green Party and never will.

    And still the left wonders why it gets nowhere forever.

  4. Well I admitted it’s a difficult choice, Joe. Short run, a Green vote helps Cuomo, no argument there. But short-run, there is really little to be done as far as this election is concerned. Longer-run, to me the issue is whether the DP provides a livable home for critical, progressive dissent. This episode says no. It’s not as if the work the WFP has done vaporizes if they fall off the ballot. The people don’t die — they can migrate to a more tenable strategy.

  5. “So we’re to reward years and years of incredible, creative, very hard work by WFP organizers — by destroying their achievement over one possible mistake.”

    What exactly is that achievement? We have a nominally Democratic governor who works to further Republican politicians’ careers and goals. He succeeded a three-term Republican governor. Until the last election, we had Republican control of our largest city for five terms.

    So what is the achievement beyond managing to appear as a line on the ballot? How has it changed actual policies or made voters’ lives better?

    I ask this in all honesty, because while I like the *idea* of the WFP the way I miss the old Liberal Party, I will probably vote Green.

    Even if it gives Andy a political victory of sorts, my only other choice would be to not vote since I categorically refuse to vote for Cuomo.

    It’s becoming clear to me that gaming my vote, trying to send messages by voting for the same asshole on one line rather than the other, or any other contortions are a waste of time and my vote. I simply can’t stomach voting for the lesser evil any more.

    It’s also clear that the Democratic Party deserves whatever it gets. I scurvier collection of cowards and carny barkers was never assembled. Their sole interest is in keeping their fat asses parked right where they are. It’s too bad that we citizens don’t deserve what both parties are dishing out to us.

  6. The key sentence in Max’s argument is this:

    “Unfortunately, nobody thought they needed to make the governor promise not to try to destroy the WFP.”

    There is a low-intensity internecine war going on in the Democratic party between it’s populist and anti-populist wings, and one of the frustrating things is that it can never be mentioned.

    The never-ending war between the voting base and the funding base of the DP.

    The voting base says stop the insane war on teachers. The funding base and the administration never wavers from the idea that they’re “reforming education”. No debate ever occurs.

    Cuomo helps the Republicans take over the Senate over the heads of elected Democrats. That’s forgivable. Opposing Hillary? Not so much.

    I don’t know what happens here, but if Democrats are counting on a united party to get them through in 2016, they may be in for a rude surprise.

  7. While Democrats have been hoping against hope and relying on Republican disunity to eke out a win tomorrow, they’ve been ignoring the growing disgust and rebellion in their own base.

    The last year on DailyKos has been illustrative of the bitterness among politically engaged hardcore Democrats and their alienation from most of the centrist Beltway Dem leadership.

    Flamewars erupted almost daily between those categorized as Obamabots and the apostates. Democratic corporatists and DINOs are universally hated. That Obama is both of these are still fightin’ words. However, his defenders are fewer and fewer. Meanwhile, the clashes over Clinton are revving up anew.

    I see formerly committed Democrats in despair because of this simple fact: Our representatives ignore us and refuse to do what we’ve asked of them time and time again. Almost universally, they lie, talk down to us, and take our votes for granted. They are responsive only to those who give them wads of money.

    This is true on both sides of the aisle. The Tea Party faithful will soon find this out about their champions as well.

    Sure, the Dem reps will try to deliver on the usual social issues like marriage equality and legal pot. The Tea Partiers have been busy purging schoolbooks of Darwin and locking up the lady parts safely.

    The real bosses don’t give a shit about that stuff and they’re glad to throw a few culture war bones to the rubes. But when it comes to the *real* issues, the money issues — the minimum wage, universal health care, union card check, offshoring jobs, raising taxes on the mega-rich and corporations, stopping TPP or the pipelines, ending our endless wars, reining in the DOD and the shadow snoop bureaucracy, doing *anything* to stop the polluting planet-killers — well, they don’t hear a word we’re saying.

    People will stand for this miserable feeling of impotence and helplessness in the face of gathering disaster for only so long. The jackasses in Washington refuse to wake up and understand that they’re sitting on a political Krakatoa. Fuck ’em all.

  8. I’ve been generally avoiding the news in an effort to preserve my sanity, so whatever happened with this. Did WFP get enough to hold its ballot line or not?

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