Days of Change

The Legend of Mario | January 2, 2015

The story of Mario Cuomo, who died yesterday, begins and ends in New York State. Cuomo was a New York politician who made it to the Governor’s mansion in the 1982 election. In 1984, he was given a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention. My mother referred to it as the “son of an immigrant grocer speech.” That was about the gist of it. Mario Cuomo derided Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” with what was essentially a precursor to John Edwards “two Americas” crapola. Ironically, while Cuomo was a classic liberal, Ronald Reagan was an FDR liberal back when FDR was president and he figured out the flaws in that ideology.

A speech at the DNC can be a stepping stone to the presidency. Bill Clinton made an awful speech in 1988 and still became president. Obama gave an uninspiring aspirational speech and that coupled with little real experience, got him the job. Cuomo, however, was the Hamlet on the Hudson, never willing to take the chance at higher office when he could win election after election in New York.

I remember a different Mario Cuomo from being a resident of upstate New York for more than 30 years. He was a taxer and spender. He relied on downstate to win him the election. In 1990, he “won” with 51% of the vote. His opposition lost due to Cuomo running against a liberal Republican and a conservative. Imagine DeBlasio in a race with him, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. Losing in 1994 was almost a given, once the state GOP got their act together.

Cuomo’s rhetoric was far from magical. He often used straw man arguments to plead his case. He defended abortion laws by saying he was personally against abortion, but did not want to infringe on the rights of women. At the same time, he opposed the death penalty and vetoed it regularly, despite popular support, because of those same personal beliefs. He made shady deals with Native Americans which led to mega corporations springing up in rural parts of the state, not subject to state laws or taxes.

Mario Cuomo’s legacy may be his son, Andrew. The younger Cuomo is a smaller idea politician, just trying to keep this shrinking state afloat. He wants to use the Buffalo model for upstate. Buffalo’s model is to rely on Canadian proximity and Pennsylvania’s economy. Andrew’s aspirations may have been crushed by his own actions. Then again, he might get to speak at the 2016 Democratic convention.


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  1. he might get to speak at the 2016 Democratic convention.

    Please, don’t even think it.

    Comment by Mary — January 3, 2015 @ 2:06 am

    • Just because the Democrats want him, doesn’t mean he’d win. People really hate him in upstate NY because of the SAFE Act restricting gun rights.

      Comment by 1539days — January 3, 2015 @ 4:52 pm

      • How much does the upstate vote usually deterine an election outcome?

        Comment by Mary — January 3, 2015 @ 9:47 pm

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