I am a political junkie. I was a child during the Vietnam/Watergate era and my political consciousness formed while the country was steeped in dissent and scandal. My entire large family voted Republican. I, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with Richard Nixon or the Republicans. At seven years old I was pulling hard for George McGovern because, to my seven-year old mind, war was bad and he would get us out of the war.
Sadly, most American voters did not feel the way I did and McGovern was crushed by a Nixon landslide. It was a couple of years later that the corruption and lies of the Nixon Administration brought down his Presidency and led to his resignation in disgrace.
Those early events formed the heart of my political identity. Mixed in with a real reluctance to commit American troops to uncertain causes with unclear objectives is a deep distrust of political power and those who misuse it.
The governor of New York does not have much say in issues of war and peace, but the governor of New York does have a lot of influence on the ethical climate of the state. By this measure, Andrew Cuomo has been a failure and has not earned a second term. Cuomo ran as someone who would clean up the mess that is Albany. After the arrests of several state legislators and the refusal of the New York State Senate or Assembly to do much about ethics reform, Cuomo launched a Moreland Commission to investigate corruption, charging the commissioners to “follow the trail wherever it took them.”
Turns out, he was not really serious about that last part. Whenever the commission’s investigation took them anywhere near Governor Cuomo or people who were strong supporters (i.e. big donors) Cuomo’s chief of staff sent word that the commission should back off. There is a long and damning article about Cuomo and the Moreland Commission here. After several months of hard work and frustrating walls thrown in their way, it became clear that the Moreland Commission was not given the room it needed to do what Cuomo had promised the people of New York it would do.
And then, to reward the Assembly and Senate for working through a tricky budget negotiation in a way the Governor approved of, Cuomo simply pulled the plug on the Moreland Commission. He thanked them for their good work and sent them home, their “good work” mostly incomplete.
That one action told me all I need to know about Andrew Cuomo. He is not serious about reforming the ethical cesspit of state politics and he never was. The Moreland Commission was just another tool of power to get the legislature to do what he wanted. It was a threat he wielded and then took away. It seemed no one in the state was willing to take on the entrenched corruption that taints both sides of the aisle in Albany.
Into the void of ethical leadership stepped Zephyr Teachout. She is a Fordham Law Professor and she is running against Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination for Governor of New York. She is an expert in corruption and has made a career fighting for the underdog. On Tuesday, September 9 she will have my vote against Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary. I am not voting for Zephyr Teachout as a gesture. I believe she can win. Party primaries have notoriously low turnout. A challenger with a passionate base of support can beat an uninspiring incumbent.
And that describes the situation in New York today: an uninspiring incumbent (who seems to be calculating the best path to take to steer himself to the Presidency) is facing off against an optimistic and inspiring newcomer whose followers are growing more and more excited about her chances of unseating a disappointing Andrew Cuomo.
If you live in New York and are a registered Democrat, please join me on Tuesday, September 9 and vote for real reform of New York’s culture of corruption. Vote for Zephyr Teachout for Governor.