By Alan S. Chartock | February 3, 2019

If Donald Trump wasn’t perceived as such a monster by New Yorkers and if that hadn’t convinced Governor Andrew Cuomo, for whatever his reasons, to unload on Trump and to go after the Republicans (who many suspect he helped to maintain control over the State Senate for years), we might not be seeing the spate of progressive legislation that is careening through both houses of the legislature. As Festus Haggen of the late, great Gunsmoke might have said, “Don’t you see?”

For those who may have been hiding beneath a rock, a group of bills that should have been passed long ago in Blue State New York has now been put on the agenda and either already passed or will pass with a guaranteed signature by Cuomo.

For example, it will now be much easier for someone who was sexually abused as a child to sue, even if the event happened many years ago. The Catholic Church opposed this no-brainer bill for a long time, maybe because it would cost the Church a great deal of money. Fortunately and to their great credit, when it was clear that the bill would pass, they stopped objecting. Andrew Cuomo told us that the Church had problems with his father, the first Governor Cuomo, who was dedicated to his Catholic religion and that they had similar problems with him. To justify his sensible positions, he has taken to selectively quoting Pope Francis on some of his more liberal positions.

A package of very sensible and more than overdue voting reforms was also passed by the legislature and signed into law by Cuomo. We all know that by passing these reforms, the Democratic majority in both houses has put what might well be a final nail in the Republican coffin in New York. There is a reason why the Republicans have always set up roadblocks to full participation in voting. They do that on the national level and on the state level and have done so since after Abraham Lincoln tried to ensure that all could vote. The party of Lincoln probably has that American hero of heroes tossing in his grave.

Then there was the Reproductive Health Act, which has been signed into law. This legislation gives women the right to make decisions about their own bodies, including abortion. This was a huge slap in the face to the Republican dominated Supreme Court which is getting set to do great harm to the pro-woman doctrine laid out in Roe V. Wade. That alone would have been enough to call this legislative session historic.

There was also the LGBTQ legislation that made it clear that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters would get equal protection under the laws. The most controversial of this group of bills was the one that would make “conversion therapy” illegal. My bet is that the anti-conversion prohibition will be tested in the courts. In any case, it was tremendous victory for the gay community.

That said, I think Governor Cuomo’s call for prohibitions on the way in which the press is allowed to cover criminal arrests and trials is one dumb move. Perhaps the governor knows just how unpopular the press, taken as a whole is, and perhaps some of the coverage is unfair and prejudicial but the people’s right to know is basic to democracy. Maybe the governor is just pointing out how sensational much of the coverage has become but he is treading on very dangerous ground and he is properly catching hell for his ideas on this.

So, when you consider all of what has happened in the few short weeks since the Democrats took power, you have a real revolution. It never would have happened without Trump’s malfeasance. Assuming that our system of government survives Trump, we’ll have some very good, progressive policies that might not have happened without him.


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].