If they were trapped in an elevator at a governors’ convention, Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie would have lots to discuss. Like how they closed yawning deficits without major tax increases–remarkable achievements. How they stood up to special interests to get their budgets passed. How they articulated their goals and rallied public opinion as they made politically unpopular cuts. And how they are preparing the groundwork for further reforms in the political culture of their respective state capitals.
Yes, the two governors would realize–if they didn’t already–how much they have in common.
But it would be a mistake to assume that the two men have gone about their business in similar fashion. In fact, their approaches could not be more different.
Chris Christie has gone out of his way to make enemies, has traveled far and wide to boast of his achievements–his achievements–and has been on Fox News so often you’d assume he has his own show.
Andrew Cuomo, on the other hand, appears to have chosen the life of a hermit. He hasn’t left the state since his inauguration, hasn’t made the talk-show rounds to tell the nation how great he is and hasn’t felt the need to torture those who may have disagreed with his budget decisions.
Mr. Christie may have made himself a hot property in the Republican Party with his unctuous behavior and made-for-YouTube confrontations with bedraggled citizens, but over the long run, Mr. Cuomo’s approach may yield the best results. Reform of the sort both governors wish to achieve cannot be achieved in a television studio or on the Internet. Sweeping changes require consensus, not confrontation. And politicians without allies quickly find themselves looking for work when the public tires of their act.
Mr. Christie has been right on some important issues. So has Mr. Cuomo. Both understand that their states are broke, and that difficult decisions are required to make things right again.
Perhaps because he knows Albany far better than Mr. Christie knows Trenton, Mr. Cuomo realizes that budget victories require collaboration and, yes, compromise. He also knows this kind of work is tedious, tiresome and often not a lot of fun. But if the goal is long-term accomplishment and genuine change, that’s how it has to get done.
Mr. Christie seems to believe that if he gloats enough about his achievements–his legislative partners rarely get any credit–that somehow long-term reform will take care of itself. It won’t.
As the incumbent president of the United States knows, it is one thing to talk about change. It is quite another to achieve it. The former simply requires a speechwriter. The latter requires hard work, humility and respect for others.
Mr. Cuomo clearly appreciates the difference.