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New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who prevailed against Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic primary this week.

LEONARD QUART: Pain and politics

By Saturday, Sep 15, 2018 Viewpoints

New York — I have been suffering from spinal stenosis for the last few months. Physical therapy (both Feldenkrais and movement oriented), epidurals and painkillers have eased some of the pain, and allowed me to walk incrementally better with the aid of a cane and a walker.

Still, I am a long way from where I want to be. And I can’t imagine ever walking a city mile or two (e.g., from one side of Greenwich Village to the other) as I used to, without stopping every few blocks to ease the pain or just giving up the whole notion as physically beyond me.

I am learning to accept that I am aging and have entered a more limited and difficult physical stage in my life making me think even more about mortality. But I am not stoical by nature, so I still rail internally at my fate, and fantasize being able to move easily again — even pitch softball in Central Park as I did twenty-five years ago — but the reality is that those days are long gone.

Beyond the pain and sleeplessness and the difficulty walking (or hobbling), I feel I am reading and writing much less. I have become much too absorbed in my own physical condition and my many doctors’ visits to concentrate on what have always been my passions. I must believe my stenosis will get better, but for the moment it still consumes me. I need to get out of myself, and think less of the pain and my lamely staggering about.

Cynthia Nixon, after her defeat in the Democratic primary.

Of course, there is the political world, which somehow I continue to obsess about — aching and all. I was rooting for [Cynthia] Nixon and [Zephyr] Teachout, though I knew that neither of them could ultimately overcome the power of money, the Party, the unions, and the minority support [Mario] Cuomo and [Letitia] James received. I have no trouble with  James — a political progressive — except for her link to Cuomo. However, I have always felt Cuomo is a talented and manipulative pol who evokes instinctive distrust because one senses he cares about nothing else but furthering his transparent political ambitions.

Nevertheless, the election carried some positive signs, Nixon moved Cuomo to pivot leftward on issues such as single-payer health care and decriminalizing marijuana. He also vowed to use his pardon power to restore voting rights to as many as 35,000 felons, and declared a state of emergency at the city’s public housing authority.

More importantly, that rogue, opportunistic group, the IDC [Independent Democratic Conference], which was formed when the Dems lost the State Senate in 2011, and worked in conjunction with the Senate Republicans, lost six seats.  (Until recently, Cuomo seemed to subtly support the IDC as a bulwark against being pushed to the Left by Democrat legislators.)

Yes, Cuomo will be in power four more years, but even in a state dominated by the Democratic establishment, progressivism has had a genuine resurgence.


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