R.I.P. Former NY Gov. Mario Cuomo

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo died today at age 82 of heart failure. The tributes are pouring in.

President Obama:

Obama said Cuomo was a "determined champion of progressive values, and an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity. His own story taught him that as Americans, we are bound together as one people, and our country’s success rests on the success of us all, not just a fortunate few."

Here is a letter Gov. Cuomo wrote to the New York Times in 2003 opposing the death penalty. [More...]

In light of the ever-growing number of exonerations of the wrongfully convicted, New Yorkers should once again ask themselves if the death penalty is worth the enormous risk it poses of executing the innocent.

The New York Times has a long article on his politics.

But he may be remembered more for the things he never did than for what he accomplished. His designs on the presidency became just flirtations. He encouraged President Bill Clinton to consider him for a seat on the Supreme Court but pulled back just as the offer was about to be made in 1993. For all his advocacy of an activist government, he did not always practice it, or could not, because of the fiscal obstacles he encountered in Albany.

Yet, the Times writes, he never lost his "essentially liberal" view of government.

He was similarly resolute when he defied his church in 1984 by flying to the University of Notre Dame to proclaim that Roman Catholic politicians who personally opposed abortion, as he did, could appropriately support the right of a woman to have an abortion. Mr. Cuomo's essentially liberal view of government never wavered.

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    RIP (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by jbindc on Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 07:32:19 AM EST
    I was too young to really have paid attention to his 1984 Democratic convention speech or to politics in general, but I came across this today and this is some powerful stuff.  Maybe if someone talked like this again and actually believed in this, Democrats could actually win back some working class people in the South and Midwest.

    We Democrats still have a dream. We still believe in this nation's future. And this is our answer to the question. This is our credo:

    We believe in only the government we need, but we insist on all the government we need.

    We believe in a government that is characterized by fairness and reasonableness, a reasonableness that goes beyond labels, that doesn't distort or promise to do things that we know we can't do.

    We believe in a government strong enough to use words like "love" and "compassion" and smart enough to convert our noblest aspirations into practical realities.

    We believe in encouraging the talented, but we believe that while survival of the fittest may be a good working description of the process of evolution, a government of humans should elevate itself to a higher order.

    We -- Our -- Our government -- Our government should be able to rise to the level where it can fill the gaps that are left by chance or by a wisdom we don't fully understand. We would rather have laws written by the patron of this great city, the man called the "world's most sincere Democrat," St. Francis of Assisi, than laws written by Darwin.

    We believe -- We believe as Democrats, that a society as blessed as ours, the most affluent democracy in the world's history, one that can spend trillions on instruments of destruction, ought to be able to help the middle class in its struggle, ought to be able to find work for all who can do it, room at the table, shelter for the homeless, care for the elderly and infirm, and hope for the destitute. And we proclaim as loudly as we can the utter insanity of nuclear proliferation and the need for a nuclear freeze, if only to affirm the simple truth that peace is better than war because life is better than death.

    We believe in firm -- We believe in firm but fair law and order.

    We believe proudly in the union movement.

    We believe in a -- We believe -- We believe in privacy for people, openness by government.

    We believe in civil rights, and we believe in human rights.

    We believe in a single -- We believe in a single fundamental idea that describes better than most textbooks and any speech that I could write what a proper government should be: the idea of family, mutuality, the sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all, feeling one another's pain, sharing one another's blessings -- reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race, or sex, or geography, or political affiliation.

    We believe we must be the family of America, recognizing that at the heart of the matter we are bound one to another, that the problems of a retired school teacher in Duluth are our problems; that the future of the child -- that the future of the child in Buffalo is our future; that the struggle of a disabled man in Boston to survive and live decently is our struggle; that the hunger of a woman in Little Rock is our hunger; that the failure anywhere to provide what reasonably we might, to avoid pain, is our failure.

    When I heard "the speech" (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by christinep on Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 10:42:56 AM EST
    I was convinced as we--husband, sister, & I--listened to Mario Cuomo's keynote address to the Democratic Convention in 1984 that he would one day be standing on the convention stage to accept his party's nomination for president. He could forge a path from the Reaganism of the day to a better time for all ... in line with the memorable sentiments in the vision of that speech.  Ultimately, of course, he demurred from seeking that office.

    As politalkix muses above, history's trajectory would have differed in some respect.  Tho, I tend to think that we never really know how it would be altered ... considering the curveballs that come when one reaches the Oval Office. And, Cuomo understood the reality of the curve ball, whether in the political field or the baseball field (see his time playing for Pittsburgh's farm team where some say that he had trouble dealing with those curve balls.)  

    What a speech that was! For my family and me, we leapt up from the floor, couch, etc. shouting things like "Tell them, Mario, tell them."  That speech became a liberal measuring stick, a template for a very long time.  Peace with you, Mario Cuomo.

    The politics that died with Mario Cuomo (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 02:03:16 PM EST
    More than any other politician in recent memory, Mario Cuomo spent a lot of time talking publicly about death, particularly his own. In 1987, Cuomo, who'd been a minor league baseball player in the early `50s, fantasized about dying while sliding into home plate, to culminate an inside-the-park home run. "That's it!" he said, in a conversation captured by Joe Klein. "That would be the way to go."

    The course of American history (2.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Politalkix on Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 07:59:49 AM EST
    would have been different and better if Mario Cuomo ran for the Presidency in 1992 just as it would be different if RFK and Martin Luther King were not assassinated. link

    Mario Cuomo repudiated Ronald Reagan's policies directly and he was proud to be a liberal from the north east in the same tradition of another north east liberal-Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    Too funny (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Yman on Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 09:15:09 AM EST
    Like a Rorschach testee who always gives the same answer.

    "But, but, BUT ... CLLIINN -TTONNNNN!"


    Only one year younger... (none / 0) (#8)
    by unitron on Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 06:16:30 PM EST
    ...Donna Douglas, Elly May Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies, also passed away today.

    RIP Governor Cuomo (none / 0) (#9)
    by sj on Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 09:19:00 PM EST
    I've always been a huge admirer. I only wish his sons adhered to his ideals, but kids do what they do.