An Unconvincing Neoliberal Critique of Mario Cuomo
The Parties have already began searching for their 2016 candidates. Mike Huckabee left his Fox News gig to mull a Presidential run but the bigger question is whether anyone will step up to challenge Hillary Clinton from the economic left. The potential contenders are Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. As far as I know, no one has announced that they are running yet, we are still in the mulling and speculation stage but mulling and speculation might help Clinton actually articulate some policy positions and move to the left. 2016 could shape up to be a national version of the recent NYC mayoral election where Quinn lost a primary that was hers to win by staying too close to the Bloomberg-Corporate line and refusing to endorse paid sick and maternity leave until it was too late. De Blasio’s Tale of Two New York struck a cord with all but the richest New Yorkers.
The Democratic Party is not where it was in 1992 when it was hit by significant defeats in the 1980s and felt a need to moderate to stay relevant. Now more active Democratic members want the party to return to more economically populist roots. Democratic Consultants still seem to think that class warfare is a loser in American politics though according to this Vox Article.
This is a long winded way of saying 2016 might be 1992 all over again with a fight between the Liberal Wing and the more centrist DLC wing. Speaking of this fight, Mario Cuomo died last week at the age of 82. Mario Cuomo was the last of his kind in many ways. He was one of the last and one of the most eloquent defenders of New Deal Liberalism. He held this position for 12 years as Reaganism was on the rise in the United States and a generation was learning that Government was nothing but a problem. He remained steadfastly anti-Death Penalty when having this kind of position was becoming increasingly unpopular and a political liability for many politicians. There has been a lot of speculation about whether Hamlet-on-the-Hudson could have won the 1992 Democratic nomination for President and whether he could have beaten Bush I in the general election. My general view is probably not just because of his opposition to the death penalty.
Not everyone has been praising Mario Cuomo fully. The Neoliberals at Slate and Planet Money held a discussion today about Mario Cuomo’s legacy under the provocative headline of “What Mario Cuomo and Elizabeth Warren Have in Common.” Slate focuses on a random interview and criticizes Cuomo for bemoaning the death of manufacturing in America as being wrongheaded and not talking about using education to make upstate New Yorkers competitive and eligible for jobs on Wall Street. NPR’s Adam Davidson plays lip service to income inequality but the message is clear by comparing Elizabeth Warren to Mario Cuomo. Slate is warning Democratic voters that a vote for Warren over Clinton is a vote for a relic from the past, a dinosaur. If the Democratic Party wants to stay relevant, it needs to continue the course with more globalization and not critiquing Wall Street too much, if at all.
What Slate does not talk about is how the old manufacturing economy provided good paying jobs to lots of people. Kodak employed 140,000 people for good livings at the height of its power and Instagram only employed 13 people when they were purchased by Facebook for a billion dollars. I am not sure why massive wealth to a mere 13 people is a better sign of progress than 140,000 decent salaries with benefits like insurance, pension, and vacation. Instagram might be a cool consumer good but it does not pay the rent or the mortgage and does not pay the rest of the bills. 13 people might get nice yachts though. I believe that education is important but there is only a finite number of people that will ever get hired by Wall Street in any year and most of these people will come from Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. I guess people can barely go earn a living as Lyft drivers in the new gig economy.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.