Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Cuomo knifes Working Families (Party)

You have to admire the glee with which our newly re-elected governor, Andrew Cuomo, displays his sleaze. (It’s no accident that he gets along quite well, thank you, with his New Jersey counterpart, the incomparable Chris Christie.) The spectacle of Cuomo’s easy win for another four-year term was better than a swords-and-sandals movie and had just as many bodies on the ground at the closing credits.

Cuomo ran on the usual right-wing platform now sold to us as “centrist”, featuring his opposition to taxes, a direct echo of the Republican concept that public services should be provided for free, preferably using slave labor. He is a big star among the LGBT groups for leading the charge on marriage equality, but he is notoriously friendlier to big business than to the labor unions that, like faithful Democrats, back him no matter what.

The Working Families Party is a fairly effective, leftish vehicle that has built a modest influence through campaigns or all sorts that combine organizing with strategic use of ballot clout. They often endorse Democrats but will sometimes run a competing candidate even when the split could favor a Republican victory.

They had a dilemma when the time came to decide what to do about Cuomo’s re-election, and at first they drafted the remarkable Zephyr Teachout to be their candidate, promptly dumping her when Cuomo held out a juicy deal. Cuomo promised to help push the recalcitrant state senate into the D column to eliminate the Republican veto over progressive legislation in exchange for WFP’s endorsement. They signed on for his campaign, and Cuomo immediately set out to destroy them.

Cuomo had a huge warchest for the campaign that he could have shared, but he did little or nothing to help Dem candidates around the state. Not content with reneging on his agreement, he went a step further and created (with the horrible, snake-like Christine Quinn’s assistance) the Women’s Equality Party to siphon votes away from Working Families and then trash-talked them as irrelevant radicals.

The outcome has been an historic disaster for WFP as Teachout ran a sterling campaign as an independent and garnered an amazing 35% in the primary against Cuomo, very possibly ruining his national ambitions. Had WFP stuck with her, they would now be seen as a group not to be trifled with; instead, WFP struggled to attract the votes needed to retain their fourth-place ballot line and were unceremoniously pushed into fifth by the Greens.

It’s going to get worse very soon as Cuomo has been waiting for the election to be over to re-authorize fracking, further deepening the outrage at this phony liberal. But the error may serve as a good lesson for WFP if it returns to its progressive roots and exercises greater skepticism when dealing, as it inevitably must, with ambitious thugs.

I’m sympathetic to them and have voted their line in the past. An independent third, fourth, or fifth party is good for the state and the city, and it’s helpful to have an organization that can both mount a picket line and compete on the ballot. WFP’s painful experience as an expendable concubine in the Cuomo harem will not soon be forgotten, and I’ll be interested to see how it reacts in coming months.

No comments: