Photo Credit: Diana Robinson via Flickr —

Hey Working Families Party, Please Don’t Endorse Andrew Cuomo Again

New York State needs a new Democratic Governor

I saw on Twitter a link to a Wall Street Journal article. I refuse to give money to a Rupert Murdoch owned publication, and their paywall is pretty strict, so I’ll have to be content with the headline. It said something along the lines of: The Working Families Party is debating whether or not to endorse Governor Cuomo in his bid for reelection in 2018.

Working Families Party, I’m going to save you a lot of time. Don’t do it. Don’t give it to him. Screw Andrew Cuomo. He screwed you the last time around. In 2014, the WFP had liberal law professor Zephyr Teachout ready to mount a progressive primary challenge to the New York Governor. Cuomo cut a deal, making promises to champion various ethics reforms, as well as pledging to campaign on behalf of the state Democratic Party win control of the senate.

Fool me once, shame on you

And then as soon as he got the WFP endorsement, he gave New York’s left wing the finger and backed out of his side of the bargain. Since then, he turned his back on fellow Democrat and Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio. What should have been an alliance between state and city leaders from the same party turned into a relationship of perceived slights and incessant bickering. Was Cuomo threatened by de Blasio’s rising liberal star? Obviously.

And so we get all levels of pettiness mixed with showmanship coming from Albany, directed at New York City. Like when Cuomo threw himself a New Year’s party last winter to celebrate the opening of three new subway stops. “Me! Me! Me!”(Oh, but cut to this summer’s breakdown of transit at every level, and don’t blame the city’s MTA woes on the Governor, says the Governor.)

It was the same with the opening of the Kosciusko Bridge last spring. Cuomo felt it appropriate to take a victory lap in one of FDR’s antique cars. Cool photo man. Did you make that your Facebook profile pic? (City: Oh, that’s great that you got to design and build a new bridge via your new, streamlined design-and-build program. Can the city do that also? Cuomo: Go pound sand.)

He ended the Moreland Commission — which was supposed to clean up Albany’s chronic corruption problem — when investigators turned their eyes toward the Governor’s office. And it’s not like their wasn’t corruption within his ranks. (See: Percoco, Joe.) How messed up is that? It’s very messed up. Imagine if Donald Trump fired Robert Mueller. Just the idea is enough to raise the specter of a constitutional crisis. And yet Governor Cuomo went ahead and actually fired his investigators, with seemingly no political price to pay.

Fool me twice …

And now that his reelection is on the horizon, the Working Families Party is debating whether or not they should endorse the Governor for a third term. Why would they? What’s the point?

Are you looking for a progressive ally in the statehouse? Because even if Cuomo wins, that’s not what you’re going to get. It’s no secret that Cuomo is all about running for President in 2020. And if he wins reelection, he’s not going to be focused on running the state. He’s going to be focused on hanging out at state fairs in Iowa and interrupting people drinking coffee at diners across New Hampshire.

Why enable him? Are you happy with his tenure as Governor? I’m not. I think he’s a phony progressive who only tacked left when it was convenient to do so. Sure, he upped the minimum wage across New York, but he was hardly a trailblazer to do so. And his signature Excelsior Scholarship, the famed “free public college” initiative that made headlines last year, is geared only toward full-time students, setting up those who are unable to take on a full course load for failure.

The IDC needs to go

And what about the Independent Democratic Conference? What about that breakaway group of “Democrats” who, by caucusing with the Republicans, prevent New York’s legislature from being the all-blue statehouse that it should be? Come on, this is New York, the bluest of blue states. And thanks to a few holdouts, truly progressive legislation like single-payer healthcare is maddeningly out of reach. Cuomo, why haven’t you done enough to reign in the IDC?

Which is all to say: Albany is doing an uninspiring job of managing the state, and Cuomo has been in charge for close to eight years. Working Families Party, think about what could have been if you’d thrown all of your weight behind Zephyr Teachout the last time around. She secured a third of Democratic primary votes without your help, showing that New York has a serious appetite for real change. What would a serious progressive leader have done in Cuomo’s place? How would a true Democratic Governor have stood up to Trump after his win last November?

What does the Working Families Party want?

Why would you want to go through it all over again? The Working Families Party is supposed to be about true progressive governance, fighting to enact the kind of radical social policy that will enable those without means to access the upward mobility not afforded them in generations. It’s about closing the income gap, the poverty gap, the inequality gap. Are you planning on hitching yourself to the Governor’s potentially rising star? That’s a risky move. Andrew Cuomo is going to do just as much as he has to to secure the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and not a lick more. And if the political winds change, I have no doubt that the Governor will have any qualms about tacking to the center.

Let’s make New York the kind of state that can stand as an example to the rest of the union. Single-payer health care, truly free higher education, dramatic police reform, an end to the private state prison system: I’m just spitballing here. But we could do these things. We could make them work. And then other states would follow, which would eventually be reflected in Washington. Cuomo’s not the person to make this happen, and you know it.