But oddly, at least one newly-elected Democratic governor seems to have come to grips thus far with reality, and it’s maybe the unlikeliest of all: New York’s Andrew Cuomo. The son of liberal icon Mario Cuomo, the Clinton-era HUD Secretary, the successor to Eliot Spitzer as the state’s crusading Attorney General; nothing in Cuomo’s history before the 2010 election suggests he’s anything but a standard-issue liberal. Nor did he take office under any urgent need to court swing voters; while New York’s usually liberal electorate gave the state Senate back to the GOP and swung more House seats from D to R than any other state in the Union, Cuomo himself cruised to victory by almost 30 points over his clownish self-funded challenger, Carl Paladino, and the state GOP boasts a depressingly shallow bench of prospective challengers.
-Touting reform of the LIFO (last in, first out) rules that require teacher layoffs to be done by seniority rather than performance. (see here; Cuomo has backed down on doing anything about the LIFO rules but claims to be willing to replace them if a new system is installed for evaluating public school teachers).
The question is why Governor Cuomo is trying to govern like a Republican, at least on fiscal issues. Certainly, after a life in liberal-Democratic circles, he’s hardly had a road-to-Damascus conversion of principle, and he faces no real threat from the state GOP. The obvious reason is simple realism: even David Paterson tried to get a property tax cap passed. The state’s finances are such a garish illustration of the failure of big-government liberalism that only a complete fool could deny the need for a change of course. A second reason is that Cuomo is, whatever his other faults, a guy who believes in doing things. He doesn’t want to end up as the same impotent failure, hog-tied by dysfunctional Albany, as his three predecessors (George Pataki, like many moderate Republicans, had a good first year in office but followed it by not really accomplishing squat for the next 11 years; Spitzer was flailing even before “Client #9,” and the functionally illiterate Paterson never had a prayer). The money’s just not there for more liberal experiments; unless the state changes its ways, Cuomo will leave office with nothing accomplished, and he knows it. A third may be that Cuomo’s investigations of the corruption in state pension funds – including targeting former Democrat comptroller Alan Hevesi and Obama Administration ‘car czar’ Steve Rattner – opened his eyes to the depth of corruption in business-as-usual Albany. And national ambition may be another driver – if Barack Obama wins a second term solely by virtue of a weak GOP field in 2012, four more years of Obama will almost certainly leave the Democrats looking for a new national leader unencumbered by Obama’s fiscal profligacy if they hope to survive. Cuomo may be hoping to craft an image as some sort of fiscal centrist with an eye on 2016.
New York conservatives, often scorned and abandoned by the state GOP, don’t and shouldn’t trust Andrew Cuomo any further than we can throw him. But we can certainly get behind enough of his agenda to send the message far and wide that even blue-state liberal Democrats recognize the need for Daniels/Christie/Walker-style reforms to how our states do business. If even Andrew Cuomo can wake up and smell the tea, why can’t your state?
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