The story of “Andrew Cuomo, closet right-winger” is well-known among progressives and obscure for everybody else. Cuomo won an easy 2010 race against one of the year’s most self-destructive Tea Party candidates, and when he’s made national news, he’s done it by driving left. He signed gay marriage into law. He signed a gun safety bill. He warned “extreme conservatives” not to waste their time in New York, which made him a dunk-tank villain on Fox News. Polls give the governor supermajority support from self-identified Democrats.
Progressives, Teachout especially, didn’t think the other Cuomo story was getting told. Cuomo had spent his tenure working with a Republican state Senate—in marked contrast to former Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer—and giving school boards less than they asked for while proposing property and estate tax cuts. After his lieutenant governor bowed out, he chose former Rep. Kathy Hochul as a running mate—Hochul, who had won a tough western New York district by running to the center, Hochul who even took credit for quashing a bill that would have given driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
“Cuomo wants to win by some massive margin, to prove that he’s a national candidate,” says Wu. “That’s why he picked Hochul. He wants to be what Chris Christie used to be known as. I just don’t think that’s a responsible way to govern the state. There’s a battle going on for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party right now, and there are some deep ideological divides that sometimes we paper over because there’s a Democratic president. On immigration, I think we should be having an open debate in the party.”
The strategy behind the Teachout/Wu ticket?
To become the Tea Party of the Left:
Teachout is copping a move from the Tea Party. Conservatives stayed inside the Republican Party to force it further right, and Teachout watched it with a combination of dread and jealousy.
“The tea parties represent a genuine, authentic civic anger,” Teachout wrote in The Nation in 2009. “I think the public anger is warranted. We are spending billions of dollars on bank bailouts that will not serve us. People are profoundly, and rightly, insecure about their jobs, where they live, their health care, and the economy. They are concerned, rightly, that the government’s response seems to be driven by the financial industry. They are concerned, rightly, about the cost of the programs and the degree of deficit spending.”
The left-wing Tea Party never happened. Occupy Wall Street happened, and Teachout spent time with New York activists, encouraging them to focus on “Madison’s idea of decentralized power.” The internal Democratic Party policing just never happened. Even in Chicago, where one possible progressive challenger to Mayor Rahm Emanuel led him by 22 points, the establishment scared her off with a tower of campaign money.
If you're a regular reader of the blog, you know that I have long called for something like a Tea Party of the Left that takes on corporate Democrats and the Democratic establishment and punishes them for selling out to corporate interests.
So long as corporate Dems like Obama and Cuomo know that no matter how often they sell out the base and cater to corporate interests, progressives and liberals will vote for them no matter what because they're too scared of the Republican alternative, then these Democratic sell-outs are going to continue to take progressives and liberals for granted and do what they've been doing.
When people on the left start making the sell-out Dems pay a political price for their sell-outs, that's when things will change - as you've seen in the Republican Party where Tea Party challenges have the GOP establishment in never-ending fear (just look at what happened to Eric Cantor in Virginia and what almost happened to Thad Cochran in Mississippi.)
Here's hoping Teachout/Wu can make Cuomo pay a political price for being that "closet right winger."