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Markos Moulitsas: Cuomo’s doomed ploy

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Last week, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the hiring of Susan Del Percio as a “special adviser to the governor,” focusing on operations and special projects. 

This wasn’t a routine administrative hire: Del Percio is a GOP strategist and commentator, and is co-director of Balance New York, an “independent” group focused on retaining the functional Republican majority in the state Senate. And the hire wasn’t an anomaly, either — it’s just the latest of many Cuomo efforts to make common cause with Republicans, both on electoral and policy grounds. 

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Cuomo’s GOP flirtations might make sense if he governed a red state, but he doesn’t. New York is one of the most reliably liberal states in the union. And Cuomo’s actions are particularly surprising given his naked presidential ambitions. 

The examples are plentiful: Look at Cuomo’s close working relationship with corrupt New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Recent revelations indicate the two governors conspired to raise bridge tolls but in a way designed to protect them from retribution. Their appointees to the Port Authority floated a $4 toll hike for the George Washington Bridge, which was then reduced to $2 after much bluster and pretend outrage from the two governors. (Pro tip: Don’t get caught in a scandal involving Christie and a bridge.)

Then there’s Cuomo’s war against New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio — over charter schools, over DeBlasio’s efforts to fund universal Pre-K with a millionaire’s surtax, and over New York City’s attempts to raise its own minimum wage. 

Don’t forget Cuomo’s appointment of former New York GOP Gov. George Pataki to a tax-cutting commission, which then predictably delivered a laundry list of GOP-friendly tax cuts, including slashing the inheritance tax. 

There was Cuomo’s endorsement of two state Senate Republicans, which now appears to have been deliberately intended to prevent Democratic control of the chamber. And when renegade Senate Democrats threatened to bolt the party, Cuomo gave them implicit support, saying, “I think they learned the hard way. The Democrats were in power. The Democrats then lost power because of the dysfunction, and I think they learned that lesson the hard way.” Perhaps. But the voters were even less enchanted by Republican control, and despite a heavy pro-GOP gerrymander, had voted to return the chamber to Democratic control. 

Why was the Senate gerrymandered in the GOP’s favor in the first place? Why, because Cuomo himself had signed off on the map in order to preserve that pro-GOP bias. You don’t need a tin foil hat to believe Cuomo actually prefers GOP Senate control, as it protects him from having to sign progressive legislation and allows him to portray himself as a great conciliator. A state-level Dream Act failed Monday on near party-line votes. Because of that gerrymander. 

Once upon a time, Democrats thought that was the only way to win. They’d punch the party’s left flank, bat their eyes at Republicans, and voters would reward them for being the “adult in the room.” Or so went the theory. That strategy never quite seemed to work (just ask former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman), and makes even less sense in today’s partisan and demographic environment. 

Cuomo clearly wants to run for president, and with luck, he will. He’ll get as far as Lieberman did, and Democrats will be reminded of the futility of the Cuomo-Lieberman approach to governance.  

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.