Cuomo for President: Is There a “Scott Walker” Democratic Path to the White House?

Are you thinking: Is he crazed? How can he ever think that Andrew Cuomo could be a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency?

Read on…

Scott Walker was a rather anonymous Republican governor of a blue state, Wisconsin. Walker took on the public employee unions; he supported legislation to remove collective bargaining rights for almost all public employees (except the police); demonstrations, sit-ins, civil disobedience, support from unions across the nation, all to no avail. The unions began a recall campaign, recall the legislators and the governor, once again a vicious battle, and once again a campaign that failed. Not only did the recall campaign not succeed Walker was re-elected. Walter next began an assault on private unions who had not been overly involved in the fight stripping public employees of collective bargaining. After another tendentious battle the legislature voted to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state. Walker is beginning a campaign to eliminate tenure in the state universities, and, Walker is at the top of the pile of Republicans running to become the Republican candidate for president. To the public, Walker is viewed as “tough and no nonsense.”(Walker, Rubio and Bush are currently considered finalists – Reading polling data here)

The NY Times magazine chronicles the involvement of member of the Iron Workers Union.

The anonymous governor of Wisconsin has become a real live competitor for the White House. He was underestimated until it was too late.

Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor, was an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller’s famous quote is especially relevant:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Andrew Cuomo, once a dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrat from New York is adjusting the Scott Walker playbook to game plan a presidential run from the Democratic side of the aisle.

Yes, there are obstacles that may be insurmountable, barring surprises Hillary will garner the 2016 Democratic nomination; however, surprises happen and the other Democratic contenders, Saunders, O’Malley and Chafee are polling in single digits. Than again, while Hillary appears to have an easy path to the nomination the actual November 2016 election is, at best, a toss-up.

Hillary losses would set the stage for Cuomo, either next year, or, four years later.

Obama’s path to the White House was unusual, and probably not replicable. An enormous number of new and young voters combined with traditional liberal voters, women, unions, minorities and blue-state voters.

The path to the Republican nomination is a battle on the far right: a combination of anti-abortion, Christian fundamentalists, anti-Obama, anti-immigrant, both militant foreign policy and isolationist, cut taxes, smaller government, etc., a combination which will select a Republican and may place the eventual Republican candidate outside of the mainstream of American voters.

Cuomo has carefully crafted a persona.

Socially liberal: Leading the marriage equality movement, supporting a women’s equity agenda, passing the anti-gun SAFE law, supporting raising the minimum wage; padding his credentials with the initiatives at the heart of the socially liberal Democratic agenda.

An Education Reformer: Attacking teacher unions as standing in the way of education “progress,” supporting charter schools, pushing hard for tax credits for private, parochial and charter schools, eroding tenure, ridding schools of “bad teachers,” etc.

An Economic Conservative: Year after year of balanced timely budgets, reducing taxes for the business side, a highly popular property tax cap, tax-free zones around the state, supporting both affordable housing and tax breaks for developers.

Controlling the Message: As the calendar ticks down to the June 17th legislature adjournment,the air waves are filled with pro-Cuomo TV ads supporting his policies on the Albany legislative agenda. Cuomo is the unique politician, he does not consistently place himself in the public spotlight, he carefully controls media access, and he rarely allows any interviews. Every media or public access is fully scripted and carefully controlled, no off- the- cuff comments, no interviews with reporters, no press conferences; the message is totally and completely scripted – word by word.

The Cuomo game-planners are building a candidate who straddles the center, attracting liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, appealing to both business interests and workers (although not their unions). With Republican contenders on the far right and Democratic progressives on the left Cuomo is betting that a middle of the road candidate can emerge. A “tough” Walker is the model for a “tough” Cuomo.

Bernie Saunders, the independent Senator from Vermont was on Face the Nation this morning, clearly popular on the Democratic left. The former Brooklynite, a James Madison High School graduate is extremely popular on the progressive left, yet, polls poorly as a presidential candidate.

I love Bernie, I knew many of his teachers; when I came to Madison as a teacher, the old-timers, refugees from the Great Depression and World War 2 veterans were an extraordinary group. Both brilliant, challenging, former, or not so former Socialists; Madison was a hotbed of the old far left Teachers Union (”
Reds at the Blackboard: Communism, Civil Rights, and the New York City Teachers Union“). and, maybe helped craft his thinking.

Could you ever see yourself supporting Cuomo for president?

The Republican right appears to support repealing the Thirteenth Amendment, legislation to re-institute peonage, denigrate the role of women, abolish unions, expel undocumented immigrants and on and on, an agenda of a former century. Maybe harsh, maybe not.

Yes, I would vote tomorrow to recall Cuomo as governor of New York (the NYS Constitution does not have a recall provision); on the other hand could I support Cuomo against a far right Republican?

Politics makes for strange bedfellows.


2 responses to “Cuomo for President: Is There a “Scott Walker” Democratic Path to the White House?

  1. Marc Korashan

    As the old joke about the cotton farmer goes, it often comes down to a choice for the lesser of two weevils.” (Insects being an apt metaphor for these politicians.)

    If we want to derail politicians like Cuomo, we have to begin to educate the public on the issues and criticize the media for covering the horse race and the characters rather than the impact of policies on working people (still a majority of the voters.) We have to steal the sound bites and make people think about what “right to work for less” means re prevailing wage laws and family incomes.

    In this respect Labor Unions, Progressive politicians, and their allies have to begin to publicly ask questions. An educational campaign can run in the press and on the broadcast media (using repeated 15 second bites) that focuses asking voters questions along the lines of:
    “Paul Ryan and the Republicans predicted runaway inflation but it hasn’t happened. Why do we continue to listen to them?”
    “The Republicans promise that tax cuts will trickle down to the middle class. They haven’t and the cuts have made it hard for government to provide services we all need, like road repair, school repairs, etc. Why do we continue to believe them when they ask for more tax cuts?”
    Republican policies in Kansas (Gov Brownback) and New Jersey (Gov Christie) have nearly bankrupted the states. Why should we continue to believe that these policies will make us better off?
    [A similar ad can be used to talk about the real impact of Gov Walker in Wisconsin]

    Presenting the fact and posing the question, forces the voter to think about the answer. It helps the ad become foreground as opposed to the background of the campaign. This also has the advantage of being a short TV, radio, or print ad, which saves money and allows the ad to be aired more often. The press will most likely pick up on the questions and begin asking Candidates, at all levels, to respond to them which may force a debate on the issues and shift the coverage away from the horse race and the personalities of the candidates.

    As a veteran educator (43 years and a teacher educator) I always tell new teachers to think about questions rather than telling. When they try this (“Johnny, what should you be doing now?) they almost always find it works better than telling the student what the rule is. I think it time we used the same technique to get voters thinking.


  2. Olivia koppell

    Just like the Pastor – we are all too late! No election will change the path we are on because policy is now determined by the multi-nationals. Both Democrats and Republicans looked the other way when it really mattered. I am totally disheartened.


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