NYS Dem Convention: The Story Is Not The Horse Race

The traditional media has been looking for a horse race angle in the New York State race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Breathless stories about the lack of diversity on the statewide ticket gasp, "OMG! We need a woman on the ticket for gender diversity!" They miss the real story, and I wonder about its implications nationally.

The simple truth is that recent polling shows Andy Cuomo beating Rick Lazio 60.3%-26.5% and Steve Levy  65.4%-22.8% , so unless he is caught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl (or some other scandal of similar proportions) Andy Cuomo is going to be the next governor of New York. With a lead like that he could run on any platform he chose.

The real story here, is that Cuomo is running on a populist, pretty far left platform. He’s been upfront and openly in favor of marriage equality, civil rights, the right to choose. He’s talked about education disparity being THE civil rights issue of our decade. He went after the bailout of the banks, which in turn did nothing for families whose equity in their homes vanished overnight, taking much of their life savings with it. Cuomo’s populist stance was emphasized as he took the podium at the state party convention, what with Bon Jovi’s anthemic "Work for the Working Man" playing in the background.

Even when he talked about not raising taxes — normally a conservative plank — he did so in the context of saying that it would be unfair to ask families who are late paying their mortgages to take on an additional expense to stay in their houses. It was a populist, working man’s, no new tax pledge.

He devoted a goodly portion of his speech to the topic of social justice, raising it more than once. I was interviewed after the speech by a reporter from Newsday and commented that I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had chosen to run from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

I find myself wondering why. I know that sounds cynical, but he could have run on almost any platform and he chose to position himself pretty hard core to the left taking on the plight of the working man. That’s about as traditional a Democratic platform as we have seen in a while. The only traditional left constituency he appeared to disrepect was the teachers’ union; he called for the passage of charter school legislation that would enable NYS to quality for $700 million in federal aid.

Blanch Lincoln has recently been forced to tack to the left as she fights for her life in a runoff primary. Joe Sestak won his primary running to the left of both Specter and the White House. I’m wondering if Andy Cuomo has figured out that the way for a Democrat to win is not to be Republican-lite, but to pay some attention to the core principles of the party and to the base.

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