Waiting for Andrew
Did anyone else grasp the absurdity of the Cuomo rescue rally held at Academy Park on Thursday? The Quinnipiac poll that showed Carl Paladino only 6 points away from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in the governor’s race really threw the Albany machine into a tizzy.
Cuomo spent the last few months trying to slice out a heaping helping of Republican and Independent support, moving more to the right in an attempt to score an overwhelming victory with a bipartisan majority.
But instead of facing the assumed Republican nominee, Rick Lazio, Cuomo is facing Paladino, a man his campaign reportedly salivated over the chance to run against. And at the moment, Cuomo’s Paladino lust seems misguided. A Lazio victory might have allowed Cuomo to make more entreaties to the other side of the aisle, but Paladino’s has changed things.
Cuomo finds himself needing to tend to his base—progressives, minorities, even, perhaps, labor, a group he has distanced himself from after promising stringent union negotiations and benefit reductions in his plan to reduce the state budget.
Rallying the Albany Democratic machine was not the way to bolster this support. In a governor’s race that centers around proving who is the bigger outsider, having Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, a 17-year machine incumbent, come to the rescue was not the way to demonstrate independence. (While Jennings claimed to have organized the rally himself, Jimmy Vielkind of the Times Union reported that a Cuomo advance man was on the scene.)
Jerry Jennings is the standard bearer for disconnected Albany machine politics. He’s the kind of Democrat who denied for years that the neighborhoods he watched fall into progressively deeper despair were actually plagued by a gang problem.
Jennings is the man who backed a police chief who devastated the city’s community policing and allegedly motivated his police force to go after the murderers of a white college student by reminding them the victim was not just another “spook.”
Jennings’ olive branch to Arbor Hill during his mayoral primary against then-3rd Ward Councilman Corey Ellis was a program to paint fake window panes on boarded up buildings.
And at Thursday’s rally, Jennings stood amid a wall of old, white, machine politicians—including Albany County Legislator Brian Scavo, a man who has gotten himself into plenty of trouble and earned quite the reputation for misogyny— while the group condemned Carl Paladino with straight faces for his unseemly racist and misogynistic emails and attacked him for saying he is going to “take a baseball bat to Albany.” Jennings’ brand of political hardball far surpasses any threat to take a bat to a city. Don’t throw stones from a glass house, gentleman.
Jennings has been a Cuomo ally for years, and has done a lot of good fundraising work for him. But Jennings certainly isn’t motivating any progressives to rally behind the right-leaning Cuomo. At this point, everyone knows Cuomo has the machine; he needs to hope no one associates him with it. Cuomo seems uninterested in the kind of progressive agenda that helped ste Sen. Eric Schneiderman win the Democratic primary for Attorney General. It’s as if he assumes that Democratic voters have no other choice. They may not have another choice, but they don’t have to vote at all.
Republicans think they have a winner in Paladino, and they may very well be willing to put aside his eccentricities and unabashed racism to vote for him. Democrats, on the other hand, may be feeling apathetic or scandal-fatigued. They need a reason to show up at the polls.
Elinor Tatum, editor and publisher of New York Amsterdam News, the state’s oldest African-American newspaper, doesn’t think Cuomo is giving the African-American community a good reason to vote for him. She recently published a letter to Cuomo asking when he plans on actually reaching out to the minority community and speaking to urban issues. Cuomo hasn’t spoken to anyone from that paper since 2002.
“You have proved nothing to us,” the letter reads “You have showed us nothing that makes us want to stand strongly behind you. . . . We feel as though all too often, you have taken us for granted, and you have less than 40 days to turn this ship around.”
“Your dad lost to Pataki because of a loss of Black support back in 1994—a campaign you were involved in,” the letter continues.
The polls released following the 6-point-Quinnipiac Poll showed Cuomo where everyone figured he was—with a sizeable lead over Paladino. But Cuomo reacted by releasing the kind of attack ads he has condemned. Finally, this week he met with black leaders in New York City, where they all shared in a Paladino bashfest.
There is no denying Cuomo is the establishment candidate, or that he does not want to paint himself into a corner by appearing too liberal. But there are issues he could address that would send a message across the state that he is progressive. He could speak, as Schneiderman did, on ways to reduce gun violence in upstate and downstate cities—not about gun control, but how to deal with illegal guns, an issue residents of almost every city in New York State are all too familiar with—or on other issues common to upstate and downstate voters, like gas drilling in the Marcellus shale.
There is no doubt Cuomo has a monopoly on progressive ideas in the governor’s race. Paladino’s “Dignity Corps” proposal shows that fascism is an ideology likely close to his heart. But voters need to know that Cuomo has ideas—not just the machine, entitlement, and attack ads.