A TOUGH BALANCING ACT
It does seem that when Andrew Cuomo ran into trouble, albeit some of it of his own making, his political enemies came out of the woodwork. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s role is, to say the least, confusing. There are some who say that he is trying to help the Governor. Others think, not so much.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the head person in the Senate, has been far tougher on the Guv. One wonders how much she and the speaker talk. Of course Stewart-Cousins may be having trouble with her ambitious and strident members. Some of the newbies clearly want Cuomo’s scalp. If they are ambitious enough to take on Cuomo, would they do the same with Stewart-Cousins?
Other politicians, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his fellow U.S. Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, piled onto the anti-Andrew bandwagon at the same time. Could that possibly have been achieved on a Zoom call? Nah, not possible. It is, however, awfully strange that it all appeared to happen at the same time. As everyone knows, Andrew has a mean streak in him. Ordinary politicians lacking that same streak would have to look for numbers to take him on. You all remember the famous movie scene in which all Caesar’s enemies are standing around and Caesar looks at Brutus and says, “Et tu, Brute?” I’ll bet as the enemies list piles up, Cuomo may have had a moment like that.
Cuomo is not in a mood to resign, despite his enemies’ demands that he do so and I expect his opponents are having some serious nightmares. I keep thinking that this may be a mirror of Trump and all those Republicans who hate his guts but who know that the rank and file are with the despot. After all, we know that the legislature is not a beloved institution. Nor are Schumer’s (let alone Gillibrand’s) numbers in the stratosphere. Poor Gillibrand will never be forgiven by rank and file Democrats for forcing Al Franken out of the Senate. She’ll surely have a primary next time around. As for Cuomo, I’ll bet anything that he is taking names. If he has his dog, Captain, with him during budget negotiations, it might be interesting to see who the dog growls at.
Another question involves the hierarchy of the New York State Assembly. Let’s take the case of the bright number two in the lower house, Crystal Peoples-Stokes. Some of the most interesting information coming out of the recent state wide polling is that people of color are incredibly supportive of the governor. Peoples-Stokes has taken the very unusual step of marginally seeming to differ with Heastie.
True, she wanted an investigation. That’s very unusual in a house in which one former Majority Leader who opposed his Speaker was consigned to a status so low that he had to look up to look down. I have interviewed this remarkable woman a number of times and I have to tell you that while she is anything but a firebrand, she can hold her own. It may be that Peoples-Stokes has a better handle on state politics and what the Black community wants than some of her colleagues do.
Finally, there is the matter of the vaccine and who gets it. Cuomo is extremely cognizant about the toll Covid has taken on the poor and people of color. He wants to see more parity in vaccine distribution and understands that the vaccines must be distributed fairly. Cuomo has to walk a tightrope. On the one hand, when he was riding high in managing the pandemic crisis, he could say “no” to a lot of demands. But now that his popularity has fallen precipitously, he has to be a whole lot more careful. So, like so many other governors, he has to accede to people’s demands to open things up while at the same time working to ward off the next outbreak. It’s a tough balancing act and I sure wouldn’t want to be doing it.
Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].