Jun 13, 2014

Should liberals vote for Rob Astorino?


There's been a lot of buzz recently about New York's next race for governor, and speculation about whether a progressive challenger will run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Here's how The New York Times described what's going on:1
    Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has won significant support from traditionally Republican constituencies, including business executives who like his tax cuts and Wall Street financiers delighted with his support of charter schools. But this courtship has come at a price: As he begins his bid for a second term, he is struggling to hold on to support from the left wing of his own party.

We want to know where New York MoveOn members stand. This isn't a formal endorsement vote—just a statewide membership survey to get a sense of what New York MoveOn members are thinking as a potential race shapes up.
Do you think a progressive candidate should run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year?
    Yes, I want to see a progressive challenger to Andrew Cuomo.
    No, I support Andrew Cuomo.
After we tally the responses, we'll report back to MoveOn members across the state and share them with the media—so they know what progressives are thinking as the gubernatorial election gets under way. 
 -MoveOn.org Email Subject: New York Member Survey: Progressive challenger for Gov. Cuomo? (May 27th, 2014)

Friend,
Gov. Cuomo pushed through tax cuts for the super rich, repealed taxes on banks, and slashed funding for local schools -- all ideas Republicans really like.
It's no wonder there's been speculation about whether a true progressive will challenge him in the race for governor.
The New York Times: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has won significant support from traditionally Republican constituencies, including business executives who like his tax cuts and Wall Street financiers delighted with his support of charter schools. But this courtship has come at a price: As he begins his bid for a second term, he is struggling to hold on to support from the left wing of his own party.
We want to know where our New York members stand.
Do you think a progressive candidate should run against Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year?
We'll report back to you and share the results with the media -- so they know what progressives are thinking as New York's gubernatorial election gets under way.
Thanks for being a bold progressive.
-Bold Progressive's Email Subject: New York survey re: Cuomo (May 28th, 2014)

This Saturday night, Working Families Party State Committee members from across New York will gather in Albany to make one of the most important decisions we have ever faced.
Should we support Governor Andrew Cuomo's re-election or endorse a progressive challenger?
I’ve been with the Working Families Party for 15 years and know firsthand that the power of our organization comes directly from empowering supporters like you to make important decisions and take meaningful action.
That’s why it’s so important our State Committee Members hear from you before they make this important decision.
Let us know if you believe the Working Families Party should endorse Governor Cuomo’s re-election or endorse a progressive challenger to run against him.
While Gov. Cuomo deserves credit for winning marriage equality and passing gun reform, many New Yorkers are frustrated with his tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations and dramatic cuts to education.1
Since we last wrote about this race, another poll came out showing over 22% of New Yorkers would support a Working Families Party alternative this November — within the margin of error of Republican Rob Astorino’s 24%.
But before this decision is made, we wanted to reach out again to see what you thought our next step should be. Share your thoughts here:
http://action.workingfamiliesparty.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=9926
We’ll be in touch over the next few days to keep you up-to-date on the latest news and information about this decision.
Thank you for making your voice heard,
-Working Families Party's Email Subject: Endorse or challenge Andrew Cuomo? (May 29th, 2014)

The proceeding three emails, were a selection of progressive organizations seeking feedback on whether or not Cuomo should receive each organization's support and especially whether or not a WFP should back Cuomo for re-election. They each allude to significant opposition within the self-identified liberal/progressive movement that Cuomo innately faces. WFP state convention occurred, and with lots of arm twisting by Mayor DeBlasio and his aides, the nomination was delivered to Corporatist-Centrist Democrat Cuomo.

The following emails I received in response to the Cuomo nomination by the WFP:

Sean,

Last night, we secured a major win. Not for the Working Families Party, not for Governor Andrew Cuomo, but for the working families of the state of New York.
Faced with a challenge from Zephyr Teachout -– a Working Families Democrat if there ever was one -- for the Working Families Party endorsement, Gov. Cuomo declared for the first time that he will join the effort to secure a Democratic-Working Families majority.
We have disagreed a lot with the Governor's economic and education policies over the last four years. On many issues, he has not governed as a progressive. But we do agree with the platform he committed to fighting for last night, which will help transform the lives of millions of people, and even set the stage for still further gains:
    *passing comprehensive public financing of elections to fight the influence of big-money in our democracy
   * passing the Dream Act, so all New Yorkers can access higher education
    *decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, so we can stop jailing our youth, especially young people of color
    *passing the full 10-point Women's Equality Agenda, to protect and ensure women's equality
    *raising New York's minimum wage to $10.10/hour, indexed to inflation, and allowing cities and counties to raise wages 30% higher than the state level
    *increasing the state's investment in community schools to improve educational opportunities in high-need districts. But the Governor still fell far short of what's needed -- we need to comply with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court order and fully fund our schools.
     
The Governor's pledge to fight for this vision of New York is why the WFP State Committee voted last night to endorse Andrew Cuomo for Governor of New York. 

Now, the hard work begins. We will hold the Governor accountable to his commitment, but we'll need your help. Can we count on you?

Yes, count me in. I will work to hold Governor Cuomo to the promise he made for a more progressive New York. 
-Working Families Party Email Subject: Our commitment to New York (June 1st, 2014)

Progressives won a big victory in New York last weekend. The Working Families Party forced Gov. Andrew Cuomo to drop his support for Republican control of the State Senate and made him commit to a populist agenda to fight income inequality. In return they agreed to back him for a second term.
Gov. Cuomo didn't want to do it. We forced his hand. Our survey of New York DFA members last week found 82% of those who responded said they would back a progressive challenger to Gov. Cuomo.
We shared those numbers with the Working Families Party, helping give them confidence to support a challenger if Gov. Cuomo didn't meet their terms. It also showed Gov. Cuomo that we were serious about a challenge, forcing him to commit to a progressive agenda.
DFA was willing to back a progressive challenger in order to hold Gov. Cuomo accountable and to push him to the left. His agreement to support the Working Families Party agenda validates that strategy. But it's not the end of the story. DFA members are going to hold Gov. Cuomo to his promises. We will not let him backslide. We will not let him side with Wall Street and the rich. 
Democracy for America Email Subject: How Andrew Cuomo caved to progressives (June 6th, 2014)

Dear New York MoveOn member, 
Recently, we shared survey results with the media showing that 73% of responding MoveOn members in New York State want to see a progressive challenger to Gov. Cuomo.
Here are some highlights of Gov. Cuomo's commitment to progressives:1
  • Support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 and letting localities across New York—including New York City—set their own higher wages up to more than $13/hour
  • Support for the Dream Act 
  • Support for passing the full 10-point Women's Equality Agenda
  • Support for decriminalization of marijuana
  • Support for public financing of elections
  • Commitment to working to elect a Democratic State Senate to turn these proposals into law, and a demand for the so-called Independent Democratic Caucus lawmakers to return to the Democratic Party
As with all political agreements, we can't take anything for granted, and follow-through will depend on two things: 1) Democrats must win the State Senate in November, and 2) there needs to be meaningful accountability to make sure Gov. Cuomo delivers on the agreement.
That's where all of us come in: Together with allies, we're helping form a Cuomo Accountability Team to make sure Gov. Cuomo knows progressives are watching closely and demanding follow-through on the commitments he has made.
Will you sign up for the Cuomo Accountability Team to make sure promises turn into action? Click here to join:

Here's an update: In order to win the endorsement of the Working Families Party—and faced with pressure from MoveOn members, law professor Zephyr Teachout, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, DFA, and other allies across New York—Governor Cuomo agreed to support a set of demands that progressives been making for years. 
 -MoveOn.org Email Subject: Update re Gov. Cuomo (June 13th, 2014)

Each of the emails after the WFP convention claimed victory and asked for donations (links to donation pages removed), but they also acknowledged that exact goal before the WFP convention (having an alternative progressive challenger to Gov. Cuomo) was wildly popular. There is such a thing as 'moving the goal posts' but this not 'moving the goal posts' but instead deciding there was never goal posts but if there were goal posts they were really popular goal posts if they ever existed. I know I stretched the analogy a bit far, but metaphysical twisting of logic to pull out a win from Cuomo eliminating any viable progressive challenger is equally a stretch.

Which brings me to the point that my title alludes to, if the progressive activists that were excited about a possible challenge to Cuomo (since he was characterized in May as a Republican Lite, but in June a strong fighter for the Liberal cause), couldn't they ensure that 4 years down the road that unseating a Astorino Governorship with a real progressive be better than handing over all progressive credibility to a Republican Lite Cuomo who have the WFP nomination as trophy of the Big Liberal Game Hunter when he runs for president in 2016? Should the 73%-82% of participants in the poll that wants a real progressive to challenge to Cuomo be better served by holding their nose and voting for Astorino rather than holding their nose and voting for Cuomo? Astorino, even if 200,000 people agreed with me and voted against Cuomo for the betterment of the Progressive movement, wouldn't win the governorship; but it would send a loud message to all those Democratic elected officials that presume they have to kowtow to the opposition's base because the Tea Party won't go along with compromise, that the Progressives are tired of being the only side that gives anything in political negotiations. That 200,000 vote number I'm using is a significant number only in that is the number of votes, if withheld from the WFP, would cause the WFP to lose their ballot access and have to wait 4 years to get it back. The requirement of 50,000 votes for governor on a party's line, and in 2010 WFP recieved less than 250,000. Even if somehow Astorino did win and Cuomo kept to his promise to beat both Independent Democratic Conference State Senators and poachable GOP state senators' seats, it would be assuredly better to have both houses safely held by real Democrats than the Potemkin village setup where the Republicans hold the majority and play bad cop to Cuomo's good cop.

Progressives lost when Cuomo received the WFP nomination, and the Progressive panhandling organizations (DFA, MoveOn.org, Bold Progressives, WFP, etc) irrespective of whatever the outcome turned out to be was going to ask for money to get "real progressive change." We've got big mountain to climb if we are going to get challenger Bob to defeat Cuomo! But there was no challenger so we get instead: Cuomo has really let us down, but if you give money now that will show him to change his ways and keep the promises that he begrudgingly made under duress. What is the difference, I don't think even the Progressive panhandlers know or care. 

The likeliest of the good scenarios is that the WFP losses it's ballot access it is narrow race (I'm indifferent to whether or not Cuomo wins re-election), with the narrative that would get widely reported is that the left were too unhappy with it's lone choice voted for protest write-in candidate or Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins getting a surprising segment of the vote.