Yesterday, Mario Cuomo, former governor of the State of New York, passed away at the age of 82.
Even though I remember when Mario Cuomo was governor, and I even voted for him, I can’t remember anything that he did that was noteworthy. He was a liberal with an expansive view of government, but he couldn’t follow through on it while he was governor because there was never quite enough money. He delivered a rousing speech at the 1984 Democratic convention, in a year when the Democrats had consigned themselves to losing anyway.
I’m sure that they will rename the Queens Midtown Tunnel for him, or maybe the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. In recent years, the state has been renaming bridges and tunnels after dead politicians. The Triborough Bridge (actually a complex of three bridges, as you might suspect, to connect three boroughs) was renamed the Robert F. Kennedy bridge; the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel became the Hugh Carey tunnel.
Mario Cuomo’s son, Andrew, is governor now, having been re-elected last November. He made a big splash when he first arrived in office, delivering an on-time state budget for the first time in eons. But then, he turned into another New York State politician. His chest-thumping achievement was a state income tax cut not large enough to pay for a daily newspaper. (OK, maybe it would pay for El Diario, which is still fifty cents.) Last year, with great fanfare, he named an ethics commission to investigate the state government, then shut it down before it could actually find anything.
But it’s not just the Cuomos: looking back through my lifetime, I can’t think of a single New York State governor who actually accomplished anything worthwhile. Even if I cheat, and Google past governors to see what they did, I still come up mostly empty. OK: Hugh Carey, back in the 1970s, helped save New York City from bankruptcy. And Andrew Cuomo did sign gay marriage into law, although that seemed more a case of jumping in front of the parade and strutting, than actual leadership.
Worse, it seems true at every level of politics. In 2013, we had Joe Lhota as the Republican candidate for mayor. He seemed to go out of his way to be colorless, and he lost. The 2016 Presidential election seems to be shaping up as a contest between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. And which ever one is elected will probably do the same things.