What Do You Call a Governor of a State too Blue to Blame on Republicans? "A progressive Democrat who's broke"


The New York Times has an interesting profile out of new New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Begins like this:

He has clashed with unions, who he believes have helped drive his state toward bankruptcy. He has been praised by prominent conservatives like Sarah Palin and Rudolph W. Giuliani. And he has taken thousands of dollars in campaign money from the New York billionaire David H. Koch, who with his family has helped financed the Tea Party movement.

That's a newspaper that knows its readers!

Try as the NYT might, the most interesting thing about the article is not the guilt-by-Kochsociation, or the lefty griping about Cuomo's political ambitions and rejection of "a politically popular income tax surcharge on the wealthy," but rather the obvious fact that Cuomo is just not being slammed as a devil Scott Walker incarnate. The fiscal situation in New York is hosed (just like it is in the other 50 states), but there just aren't enough Republicans around to blame.

Asked to describe his own beliefs during a news conference in Albany on Saturday, Mr. Cuomo was succinct. "I am a progressive Democrat who's broke," he said, adding: "I disagree with the concept that the only way to get better services is more money, more money, more money. "We've been spending a lot more money. We're not getting better services." […]

Those close to Mr. Cuomo say that he is above all a pragmatist, bent on reshaping Albany's paralyzed government so that it can once again be an effective and credible force in New Yorkers' lives.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with the allegedly looming government shutdown? It's this: When you remove the High Noon-style red-on-blue confrontation, you're left with the same singular fact, one that affects red states, blue cities, and above all Our Nation's Crapitol–We Are Out of Money. I'm just a simple California girl, but the notion of a federal government shutdown strikes me as basically the same as Gov. Walker ramming through a public union-busting bill, and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger trying (and failing) to denude public sector unions in 2005. They're all marvelous opportunities to rally the dead-enders for another year (or 10) of denialist obsctructionism, and to shift the focus away from the underlying crisis at hand and back onto the always-more-telegenic bumfight. As Senior Editor Tim Cavanaugh wrote last month, "Scott Walker's greatest gift to the left is hidden in plain sight: He managed to turn a consensus position based on straightforward math into what looks like a partisan issue."

I personally won't sniffle on the odd chance that cowboy poetry and the Department of Agriculture will go unfunded for a few hours. But I watched up close as Arnold Schwarzenegger let a thirst for direct conflict with the opposition overwhelm his appetite for more serious (and complicated) reform, luring him into a defeat that produced four years of dreadfully disappointing governance. Wisconsin, it seems to me, is no longer talking much about reducing the size of government. I wasn't around in the mid-'90s, but I hear tell that the government shutdown then didn't turn out well for the limited-government wing of the 1994 Revolution.

This doesn't mean you fight the Class War between the public sector and the rest of us by turning the other cheek, or looking the other way when the New York Times editorial board and other progressives let their versions of fact be determined by how many right-wing oogity-boogities they can blame. But I think it does mean that distilling the Continuing Crisis into a single game of televised chicken gives unearned advantage to the guy who was already losing. Nothing improves long odds like challenging your opponent to a duel.

As Tim Cavanaugh keeps telling us, most thoroughly in his March cover story on "How public pensions killed progressive California," much of the hottest pension-reform action is now coming from Democrats, who have to grapple with the same awful math as Scott Walker. Cuomo put it best to the New York Times last year, in my new favorite quote, "Numbers are numbers….They're numbers. Forget the philosophy. Here are the numbers."

And the fact that Democrats will portray Democratic budget-cutters as "above all a pragmatist" while portraying budget-cutting Republicans as purveyors of a "death trap" is just more evidence of a partisan-intellectual decline that reminds me of nothing so much as Republicanism circa 2004. They've got a ways to go before they hit bottom.