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Bring Us Together |
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The American Spectatoe 8/18/2009
"There have been few Democratic candidates who have run for President over the last few decades that have not run on the platform of """"bring us together.""""
Democrats are the great uniters attempting to unite us all across lines of race class income sexual orientation whatever. It's an idea that has its appeal. We like to think of ourselves as one nation disparate individuals and cultures brought together by the power of shared ideals diverse elements united to a common purpose e pluribus unum.
The master of this rhetoric was Mario Cuomo the former governor of New York who was touted several times as an odds-on favorite to sweep through the Democratic primaries and secure the nomination for President -- except that he never got past his own contradictory nature and so never left Albany -- at one point literally leaving the plane on the tarmac that was supposed to take him to Iowa to start his campaign.
Cuomo ruled by what he called the """"poetry of politics."""" He came to prominence at the Democratic National Convention in 1984 where he gave a historic stem-winding speech in which he excoriated the Reagan Administration for caring only about """"millionaires"""" and portrayed the nation as a huge wagon train moving Westward:
Ever since Franklin Roosevelt lifted himself from his wheelchair to lift this nation from its knees -- wagon train after wagon train -- to new frontiers of education housing peace; the whole family aboard constantly reaching out to extend and enlarge that family; lifting them up into the wagon on the way; blacks and Hispanics and people of every ethnic group and native Americans -- all those struggling to build their families and claim some small share of America.
Powerful rhetoric then powerful rhetoric now. Not even the current occupant of the White House has ever really soared to that level in trying to portray his vision of America.
Yet what did Mario Cuomo actually accomplish in his three terms as governor? During his twelve-year tenure Mario Cuomo presided over the virtual evisceration of the New York State economy. He had no sense of how to achieve prosperity except to set up trade barriers and """"share the wealth."""" At one point he suggested that only New York State wines be sold in grocery stores. He refused to buy bid-winning subway cars for New York City because they were made in Canada. When the New York Yankees threatened to leave the crime-ridden Bronx and move to New Jersey Cuomo promised to """"sell some bonds"""" and buy the team from George Steinbrenner -- probably not even realizing that """"selling bonds"""" meant borrowing money. In the 1991-1992 recession one out of every five jobs lost in America were in New York State.
Cuomo had absolutely no sense of institutions other than the state and needy individuals. He constantly invoked the """"family"""" but his family was people leaning on the government. He had no sense of building the """"little platoons"""" that Edmund Burke said were the foundation of civil society. In the midst of welfare reform he once remarked about 16-year-old welfare mothers """"If we get her in an apartment and get her going to school or earning money at a job what's the problem?""""
In 1990 I worked as a speechwriter on the ill-fated campaign of his Republican gubernatorial opponent Pierre Rinfret. On the staff we were constantly appalled at Governor Cuomo's economic ignorance. His ideas were almost Medieval. In one speech he recounted a conversation with his State Director of Economic Development Vincent Tese after a meeting with some Italian trade officials. """"Hey Vincent this is great. We make something we sell it to them they make something else they sell it to us. This is good.""""
""""It was like listening to your grandmother explain how the world works """" commented one researcher.
At one point we had a bootlegged tape of Cuomo telling the state nominating convention """"We've just st"
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