By Alan S. Chartock
For Capital Region Independent Media
So now comes news of a possible primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand from none other than Andrew Cuomo. Both are terrific and accomplished politicians.
How would you vote in such a contest? As a woman at a time when our politics probably need more women, Gillibrand has a probable advantage but — and this is a big but — the Cuomo name still brings a surge to the hearts of many New Yorkers.
Look, I have had my ups and downs with the Cuomos. Papa (Mario) Cuomo and I spoke for years on the radio. He was a funny, combustible type of guy. If you were in a verbal contest with him, he was uber-worthy. He didn’t let you get away with a thing. That’s because he was incredibly smart. He just knew a lot. Maybe it was his formal education. Maybe it was his constant reading and profound understanding of human nature. Whatever it was, Mario Cuomo was a contender. There are many of us who believed that he should and could have been President of the United States. When you stack him up against the present crop of top politicians, he shines like a very bright light.
The Cuomos are New York royalty — they speak like New Yorkers and act like New Yorkers. When you see a Cuomo, you better believe that you are seeing a New Yorker. So, they’re very much in the New York voter consciousness. But not everybody in the country likes that New York consciousness. One of the reasons why a Cuomo never got to be president is that many people in this country have an aversion to New Yorkers, including the way that they speak and the way that they act. Too many people see the Cuomos as bullies.
As I said, I know them pretty well and hope it doesn’t come across as braggadocio for me to claim to be one of the sitting Cuomo experts. For many years, I have looked deep into their souls and because I have written so much about them and studied them for so long, I think that I have the credentials. That may sound a little bit over the top but I think if you examine how much I have written about them and the many conversations I have had with them, I think you might have to agree with my self-assessment. Of course, if you are a Cuomo you might not agree that I know all that much about them. In fact, you might be just a tad ticked off at my claim, yet if you were to look around at the crop of political analysts and writers, I doubt that you might find many worthy competitors.
When you consider all that the Cuomos have done, I suspect you will agree that their imprint on our politics has been a mighty one. It may be because of their New York branding that they have never grabbed the top gold ring but I really can’t think of any other American family circle that is as recognizable as Mario and his descendants.
I have tremendous respect for the Cuomo crew. They know what they are doing. I love getting under their skins. They are a very proud bunch. They like to fight and they don’t want anyone to take liberties.
Andrew, it has been alleged, likes the ladies. I respect that — so do I. In our present politics, if you kiss a lady on the cheek or on the hand, someone will surely say you are a womanizer. In our political system it is hard to believe that anyone with the Cuomo affect will not garner a reputation as a ladies man. Hey, human nature being what it is and the sex thing always being present, it is more dangerous than ever to be a politician. All politicians risk being labeled for perfectly natural human traits. Andrew risks that, Kirstin Gillibrand, not so much.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.