Is Cuomo Killing the Democratic Party?

Is Cuomo Killing the Democratic Party?

Is Cuomo Killing the Democratic Party?
June 12, 2014

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bruising battle for the endorsement of the left-leaning Working Families Party, I must ask, What is the future of New York’s Democratic Party? Is it in a continued alliance with the left-leaning Working Families Party?

Had Gov. Cuomo lost the WFP nomination, I tweeted that he would resume his pursuit of legislation ending the Wilson-Pakula law that permits cross-party endorsements by party leaders. Back in 2013 when he was an anticorruption leader, Cuomo proposed eliminating the Wilson-Pakula authorization given by a political party to non-enrolled candidates wishing to run on that party’s ballot line.

Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith and ex–New York City Councilman Dan Halloran are presently on trial in an alleged corruption plot that involved Smith paying bribes to Republican Party leaders to obtain a Wilson-Pakula so he could run on the GOP line for mayor of New York City.

Wilson-Pakula gives third parties like the WFP outsize influence with the two major parties, because New York law enables candidates to combine their vote totals from multiple party lines in the general election, and in many close races, that aggregate total is the difference between victory and defeat. To their credit, the Green Party of New York has stayed out of the major parties’ political affairs by refusing to cross-endorse any of their candidates.

The cruel irony is that had Cuomo been successful, he probably would have had difficulty petitioning his way onto the WFP ballot this month. WFP state committee members, as well as the rank and file, are known to be displeased with what they see as Cuomo’s less than progressive record.

Even more ironic is reconciling 2014 Candidate Cuomo with statements made by his alter ego Gov. Cuomo in April 2013. That year Cuomo accused the minor parties—forget that it was Queens GOP officials who allegedly accepted bribes from Smith—of perpetuating a “pay-to-run” system.

“The allegation is that the minor parties on occasion have used campaign contributions to determine who gets the line, and it’s almost that the line goes to the highest bidder,” asserted Cuomo. Again, Cuomo conveniently ignored the 12 years that the state Senate majority, the city’s county GOP machines and the Independence Party were wholly owned subsidiaries of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Thus Candidate Cuomo aggressively pursued and won the support of both the WFP and the discredited Independence Party after arguing in 2013 that candidates should be allowed to run without the approval of
party bosses. 

Gov. Cuomo has succeeded in raising political cynicism to high art, where truth and facts are as malleable as clay or praise dancing. 

I am concerned about the future of party politics in New York. As a centrist Democrat, I embraced Cuomo’s politics of bipartisan cooperation. Streamlined, efficient and effective delivery of government services benefits all. I thought Gov. Cuomo subscribed to those notions. Instead, Cuomo seems to be about accruing and wielding political power.

You can agree or disagree with the WFP, but at least New Yorkers know what they believe and where they stand on issues. Aside from the settled issues of marriage equality and abortion, can the same be said of Cuomo Democrats?

The Cuomo fils brand may in the long run weaken and bankrupt the state Democratic Party far more than his father did at the end of his 12 years as governor in 1994. In doing so, Cuomo may well leave the Democrats in the thrall of the WFP.

That end would be the most ironic kicker in the history of New York
State politics.

Placeholder blue outline avatar
Michael Benjamin