It’s no secret that Governor Andrew Cuomo is determined to rack up a landslide re-election later this year. The governor has big plans, and that’s no secret either. If Hillary Clinton decides to pass up a presidential campaign, Mr. Cuomo will be spending some quality time in the fields of Iowa and the diners of New Hampshire next year.
Like another governor from the tristate region (hint: we’re not talking about Connecticut’s Dannel Malloy), Mr. Cuomo believes that the national media and big-bucks fund-raisers will take notice if he can pull off a victory of historic proportions. Once upon a time, a governor of New York won a record-setting re-election to a second term, leading humorist Will Rogers to announce that the Empire State had just chosen the next president of the United States. He was right: Franklin D. Roosevelt parlayed his impressive re-election in 1930 into four successful presidential campaigns.
Mr. Cuomo would dearly love to be the first New York Democrat since F.D.R. to win his party’s presidential nomination. The last thing he needs, then, is criticism from his left, courtesy of self-styled progressives who have gathered together under the banner of the Working Families Party. One might argue that the Working Families Party is hardly a force to be reckoned with, especially when you enjoy a high double-digit lead in the polls, as Mr. Cuomo does. But in Mr. Cuomo’s view, the party represented a threat to the narrative he is attempting to write this year.
Over the weekend, Mr. Cuomo did everything he could to persuade the Working Families Party that he is a true progressive. And when party leaders demanded evidence of his new-found populism, Mr. Cuomo did not tell them where they could place their cross of gold. Instead, he touted the party line on issues like the minimum wage—he said he’s all for raising it to $10.10—and he ditched his previous support for the independent Democrats who run the State Senate in collaboration with upstate and suburban Republicans.
This is unfortunate. First, Mr. Cuomo doesn’t need the Working Families Party. His incessant and even desperate attempt to win the party’s approval makes him less appealing, not more, as a national figure. He might do well to recall that President Bill Clinton’s formula for victory always included standing up to and even mocking those to his far left, which cemented his middle. (Surely, we all recall how he made Bronx-born Sister Souljah into a national figure.)
Secondly, Mr. Cuomo’s cynical decision to turn his back on responsible Democrats in the State Senate is highly disappointing. The last time Democrats ran the State Senate, law enforcement officials could hardly keep track of the indictments, ethics violations and other shady machinations that discredited the caucus and led to defections of several colleagues.
The current Senate leadership has proven to be far more responsible, and it’s clear Mr. Cuomo preferred to work with the incumbent leaders than with the partisan hacks who dominate the Democratic caucus. But the Working Families Party has spoken, and now Mr. Cuomo is committed to overthrowing his allies in the name of partisan politics.
Mr. Cuomo has been an excellent governor. But this week’s performance has not been his best.