Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cuomo and the WFP: "Words Uttered Under Coercion..."

Bill Hammond has a few choice words this morning about the shotgun marriage between Andrew Cuomo, the putative next governor of New York, and the Working Families Party: "Andrew Cuomo left no doubt as to who's the boss in his marriage of convenience this weekend with the Working Families Party. The Democratic front-runner for governor accepted the lefty coalition's endorsement, but only after extracting a humiliating concession from party leaders: They had to pledge allegiance to his entire agenda - including fiscally conservative planks they have ardently opposed in the past."

Which brings to mind a quotation that we had wrongfully attributed to Justice Holmes in the past, but was the felicitous phrase that Hugo Black had used to describe loyalty oaths: "Words uttered under coercion are proof of loyalty to nothing but self-interest. Love of country must spring from willing hearts and free minds."

And so it goes with the WFP, whose 180 here amounts to a death bed conversion that will be recanted just as soon as the party gets the 50,000 votes it needs to stay a fixture on the state ballot: "Keep in mind that Working Families leaders were acting with a gun to their heads. They need to draw at least 50,000 votes for their gubernatorial candidate on Election Day to keep their status as an officially recognized party - which is the key to their considerable influence with elected officials. If Cuomo had refused to put his name at the top of the WFP ticket, the party's very survival would have been in doubt. So the party's official statement - "We stand proudly and steadfastly behind Andrew Cuomo and his plan for a new New York" - had the whiff of flop sweat."

Hammond feels, and we agree, that Cuomo should have left the WFP twist in the wind because this collection of public sector slackers is part of the problem and certainly not the solution: "The statement pointedly fails to mention any of the specifics of that plan - such as freezing taxes and capping state spending - that the WFP had opposed until five minutes before issuing it. In fact, as of yesterday, the party's website continued to refer to capping property taxes - a centerpiece of Cuomo's agenda and the topic of his first campaign commercial - as a "gimmick" that could "seriously undermine New York schools."

So what did Cuomo gain by allowing these folks to pledge their faux loyalty to a concept that is an anathema to its core constituency? Hammond doesn't see how this benefits Andrew: "Cuomo is framing this deal as a huge step forward for his plan to overhaul Albany. If he can bring the WFP to its knees, the logic goes, the Assembly and Senate are sure to follow. But the WFP derives most of its political clout - not to mention its financial backing - from 1199, the UFT and other labor powerhouses. If they're not onboard - really onboard - any lobbying campaign the WFP may mount on Cuomo's behalf will fall flat. And members of the Legislature are likely to see the WFP's embrace of Cuomo as a cynical deal for survival, not a genuine change of heart. So what's the WFP's statement of support really worth? Not much. Certainly nowhere near enough to justify thoroughly muddying Cuomo's message of change in Albany."

If Andrew Cuomo is truly sincere about what he intends to do once in office-and we really hope he is-than the current embrace of the WFP will be seen as a temporary reprieve for a party that will soon be in the new governor's cross hairs. We believe, then, that yesterday's moment of mutual affection will be remembered as a kiss of death