Party unity makes for strange bedfellows.
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the stage at a breakfast for the New York delegation to the Democratic National Convention this afternoon, he was met with huge cheers—largely because he’d brought Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders along with him.
By way of introduction, Cuomo ticked off a litany of progressive policies he’s rolled out in the state—a 15$ minim wage (which he dismissed before he championed it), paid family leave and marriage equality.
“We don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. We’re making a new reality in New York,” Cuomo shouted. “We’re showing this nation you can have progressive politics and you can move the economy up for everyone and it’s not a dream it is a reality and we are doing it in New York.”
“Give a big welcome to a New York boy from Brooklyn,” Cuomo, a New York boy from Queens continued, “Senator Bernie Sanders!”
Sanders took the stage to cheers and chants of his name, just hours after closing out the Democratic National Convention’s tumultuous first night with an appeal to party unity. It is perhaps in that spirit that he made his surprise visit to the New York delegation—where many of the delegates are elected officials who support Clinton, the hometown candidate.
Cuomo himself was an early Clinton supporter, and in the past has taken swings at Sanders for his stances on gun control. And there’s probably not a ton of overlap between Sanders’ fan base and Cuomo’s: after all, Cuomo was challenged from the left by Zephyr Teachout in a 2014 primary that saw the upstart candidate, whose platform had much in common with Sanders’, net a third of the vote. The governor has long been considered more of a centrist who has worked closely with the Senate’s Republican leadership, leading some Democrats to fume over his reluctance to actively campaign to flip the body to Democrats (a priority of Mayor Bill de Blasio, with whom the governor has feuded). But more recently, perhaps egged on by that feud, the governor has rolled out a slew of more progressive policies, the minimum wage legislation at the top of the list.
“Gov. Cuomo talks about raising the minimum wage to fifteen bucks an hour, that means that millions of people who lived in poverty no longer live in poverty,” Sanders said today. “And when you pass paid family and medical leave it means that when a mom has a baby she can stay home with that baby.”
But in addition to returning the governor’s praise, Sanders also stayed on this week’s message: electing Hillary Clinton.
“Our first task in the next few months, and I know we’ll all work hard on it, is to the see that Secretary Clinton is elected,” Sanders said. “But our second task is never to lose focus on the most important issues facing the working families of this country.”
The speech resonated with Eddie Kay, 84, a Sanders delegate from Brooklyn, even if he acknowledged that it was an emotionally difficult task for Sanders supporters to get behind Clinton.
“I think every one of us who fought and sacrificed and mostly got involved in trying to create a politic revolution has to adjust. Because otherwise we’re not going to relate to the people and change them. We must change them,” Kay said. “That’s our job. It’s to elect Hillary, because w have no choice, but at the same time to complete the political revolution, or to keep it going.”
Kay was less enamored of Cuomo’s speech—”too much bullshit,” he said, later adding that Cuomo’s backing of the Senate GOP was “a great contradiction.”
“They have zero in common, in my opinion,” he said of Cuomo and Sanders.
But not every New York delegate is heeding Sanders’ advice to vote for Clinton.
“I absolutely will not vote for her. As long as this convention goes and as long as this movement goes I’m going to be supporting Senator Sanders,” Joshua Brooks, 24, a delegate from Suffern. “If the unfortunate case turns out where Hillary is the Democratic nominee I’m going to be putting my support towards Jill Stein in the Green Party.”
Brooks had not been a Democrat or politically active before this election, he said, but that changed when he first saw a post about Bernie Sanders from a family friend on Facebook.
“I am proud beyond all possible words of the campaign that he ran, the fair and honest campaign that he ran supporting the working class of America, and really trying to promote unity everywhere he could be. Even today you see that, and last night, trying to promote unity and unify Democrats against Donald Trump,” Brooks said. “Now, I don’t think that the prime issue here is Donald Trump. I think the prime issue is between the working class of American versus the corporatist class.”