Much of the early punditry has branded the failure to pass campaign finance reform and the codification of Roe v. Wade as a part of the Women’s Equality Act (WEA) as a complete defeat, especially for the governor. I would like to enter a dissent to that interpretation.
A more accurate analysis might be to gauge how and why the politics underlying both issues could lead the Senate to change its mind down the road.
Bruce N. Gyory
A precedent from 1986 is instructive. Back then Gov. Mario Cuomo added a controversial change in the generic substitution law to his proposal to enact the overwhelmingly popular EPIC program—the senior citizen drug program. The GOP Senate would have passed EPIC in a heartbeat, but they opposed the generic drug proposal.
The regular session ended in 1986 without EPIC passing. However, as Mario Cuomo campaigned for re-election, the EPIC compromise gained steam with voters. EPIC, with a compromise on generic substitution acceptable to the Republican Senate, passed in a postelection special session.
In light of that example, Andrew Cuomo might have grounds for optimism.
Let’s take campaign finance. After the indictments of legislators started flowing, the wind seemed to lift the sails of those recommending campaign finance reform, but the convictions in the New York City case centering around Oliver Pan’s role in John Liu’s campaign were effectively used by opponents of public financing to blunt the push for the public financing of elections.
The governor will be appointing a Moreland Act Commission. If this Moreland Commission does its job, it could put persuasive proposals before the public, which the governor could use to mobilize public opinion behind broad campaign finance reform.
City & State recently published an exposé on apparent fundraising abuses by the local GOP in Nassau County. Whether and how Nassau County’s voters react, should that controversy heat up, could prove persuasive to Long Island’s Republican senators, creating a point of movement for campaign finance.
On the codification of Roe v. Wade, the governor made a tactical mistake by waiting so long to put forth his language on this provision. The Catholic Conference and their allies did a masterful job of lobbying against what they feared the provisions would be. The delay left pro-choice advocates hamstrung, not being able to counter with proof of what the bill would actually accomplish.
In that lobbying scrum, pro-life advocates were able to lock down adamant GOP opposition in the Senate to moving the abortion part of the bill—the 10th plank of the WEA.
Nevertheless, a political reality could emerge to break the logjam on this Roe v. Wade codification. Over the last three decades, when you distill the polling data, the pro-life share of the New York State electorate has dwindled from roughly 40 percent to about a 25 percent share. When your numbers dip that low politically, you can lose the leverage to provide the critical mass of opposition necessary to accomplish your legislative agenda.
The choice issue remains a perilous one for Senate Republicans. It is enormously divisive within Republican primaries. Meanwhile, the swing suburban districts, chock-full of highly educated and relatively affluent voters, are now overwhelmingly pro-choice. Republican women especially are pro-choice in these districts.
Heading into 2014, the GOP’s conundrum on choice in swing districts will be to find a way to steer between primaries tilting pro-life and general elections, which are decisively pro-choice.
Consequently, it is too early to accurately handicap the future prospects for campaign finance reform and the codifying of Roe v. Wade. Positions are deeply held, especially given the moral dimension underlying both sides of the abortion question. But the proponents of change may have multiple cards to play as the 2014 cycle heats up and a governor in Andrew Cuomo, who is skilled in both building political pressure and enacting legislative compromise.
Bruce N. Gyory is a political consultant with Corning Place Communications and an adjunct professor of political science at SUNY Albany.
Tags: Andrew Cuomo, Bruce Gyory, campaign finance reform, Catholic Conference, City & State, EPIC, John Liu, Mario Cuomo, Moreland Act, Moreland Commission, Nassau County, Oliver Pan, Republican, Roe V. Wade, WEA, Women’s Equality Act