Cuomo’s moment

Three-term former New York Governor Mario Cuomo died yesterday at the age of 82. The New York Times recalls him in the obituary by Adam Nagourney and the New York City sidebar by Sam Roberts.

Cuomo was an eloquent preacher of the liberal gospel at a time when the gospel had been eclipsed by Ronald Reagan’s political and policy successes. At the Democratic Convention in July 1984, giving the keynote speech, Cuomo portrayed the condition of the country in (literally) Dickensian terms. As the estimable Professor Hayward writes in The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution, 1980-1989, “one would have thought…that the nation had returned to the conditions of the Great Depression.” Indeed, this was the liberal characterization of the Reagan era, right up until the election of Bill Clinton in 1992.

NPR has posted the text of Cuomo’s keynote speech here along with Cuomo’s Tale of Two Cities riff from the speech (video below).

Cuomo, the left and the Democratic Party not only got Reagan’s America wrong at home, they got it wrong abroad. They were ardent opponents of Reagan’s assertion of American power to oppose the Soviet Union and even took up causes championed by the Soviet Union, such as the nuclear freeze. “Among Cuomo’s aphorisms,” Steve Hayward points out, “was praise for the nuclear free movement because the freeze [movement] understood” — this is Cuomo speaking now — “that peace is better than war because life is better than death.”

I saw Cuomo stand up for the merits of liberalism while Newt Gingrich raised the conservative standard on the stage of the Cooper Union in New York in February 2007. By my lights, Cuomo had the better of it that night. His legacy survives in the New York governor’s office with the swearing in of his son Andrew for a second term yesterday. RIP.

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