Alan Chartock: Gov. Cuomo rides roughshod over Democrats
But wait! The assumption is that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (I’ll call him Andrew, for short) wanted the Democrats to control the state Senate. After all, Andrew can point to a whole bunch of progressive legislation that has passed on his watch since the Senate went to the Democrats. And yet there is something that is more than mildly disquieting about the fact that the governor seems to regard the Senate Democrats as the enemy. That is perplexing since he, too, is a Democrat. But he just can’t stop.
So what’s really going on here? Does Andrew REALLY want the Democrats in the Senate? He says he does. He says that he campaigned for them after eyebrows were raised about him helping the Republicans. He couldn’t have that. So the brilliant tactician seems to want it both ways. He wants the credit for electing the Senate but he also wants, in the words of a good dog trainer, to bring those Democrats to heel. He treats them much like he treated the Republicans when they were in the majority. It’s a beautiful thing. For example, there is some reason to believe that HE doesn’t want legalized recreational marijuana, but the Senate Dems are getting the blame.
I have been privileged to interview the governor on a regular basis for quite a few months now. I didn’t ask for that honor—he reached out to WAMC, the public radio station that I head. He shows up quite often, announced by his “senior advisor” Rich Azzopardi, who was once my student on the Legislative Gazette newspaper. Andrew regularly makes news when we speak, which is great for the radio station. Inevitably he will say something about the inability of the Senate Democrats to get things done. Take the issue of rent control—clearly Andrew didn’t want the Democrats to go too far but he blamed the Senate Dems for their inability to act.
He recently made quite a bit of news around the state in response to a question I posed as the session reached its natural apex. If they didn’t get all their business done to his satisfaction, I wondered, why didn’t he keep them in Albany? He certainly has the power to do so. He answered that he just might.
We all know that, like his father before him, Andrew had a productive relationship with the Republicans in the Senate when they were in power. If something that the Cuomos may or may not have wanted got stalled, they could blame the nasty old Republicans. Of course, the only real reason the Republicans stayed in power was because of the evil gerrymander whereby they would draw districts in which they couldn’t lose—that is, until there were just too many Democrats and too many people who hated the guts of the current occupant of the White House. On the other hand, as Andrew brings disrepute to the Senate Democrats, he risks losing the majority back to the Republicans in the next redistricting. After all, he keeps pointing out how conservative so many of the newly elected Democrats in what were formerly Republican districts have to be. That has to have the Senate Democrats quite worried. It’s almost as if he was digging the earth out from beneath the Democrats’ feet.
It’s not that the Democrats haven’t made mistakes—they have. When they do, as in the case of the loss of all those Amazon jobs, Cuomo rubs their noses in their mess. They have been really lousy about fighting back, sort of like the poor kid who has to face the schoolyard bully day after day and is scared to do anything about it. Frankly, their efforts to counter the governor have been pathetic. They are truly between a rock and a hard place.
Put another way, I wouldn’t want to be them.