With so many Republicans winning governorships last November, there will be ample opportunity in the months ahead to compare and contrast the actions of other states’ executives with our own, and to look elsewhere for working solutions to the problems Georgia also faces. For today, I call your attention to a column by The Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn about the divergent approaches so far by two newly elected Democratic governors: Andrew Cuomo of New York and Pat Quinn of Illinois (who assumed the office after the fall of Rod Blagojevich and was elected as governor for the first time in November):
At yesterday’s inaugural in Springfield, Gov. Quinn delivered himself of an address that made ample use of someone’s Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. … Apart from promising that “we will stabilize our budget,” there was little hint that the taxpayers of Illinois need any larger reform in the way the politicians handle their money.
By contrast, before the first week of this new year was out, Gov. Cuomo had delivered separate inaugural and state-of-the-state addresses that would have drawn cheers at a tea party. Notwithstanding the occasional nod to certain progressive canons (e.g., same-sex marriage and public financing of political campaigns), the thrust was clear. If Mr. Cuomo were a Republican, some of his metaphors—property taxes “killing” New Yorkers, citizens feeling “betrayed” by government—would have him accused of contributing to America’s “climate of hate.” He even used his first inaugural as governor to swipe from the Gipper’s first inaugural as president the quip that government today is more the problem than the solution.
In short, Messrs. Cuomo and Quinn appear to read events around them in opposite ways. Manifestly Mr. Cuomo has noticed that across the border in New Jersey, Republican Gov. Christie has taken on the public-employee unions responsible for so much of the state’s budget problems, and has become a popular national figure for it. In sharp contrast, Mr. Quinn appears oblivious to the market-oriented policies next door (privatization of roads, the end of collective bargaining for state workers, etc.) that have helped Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels turn his state around.
While we haven’t been treated to the same volume of painstaking accounts of internal strife among Democrats that we saw after the Republicans’ national-election disasters in 2006 and 2008, it will be instructive to see how newly elected Democrats respond to the public’s verdict in November. My guess is that you will see the majority of them react as Quinn apparently is: Wait out the storm of GOP momentum, and then proceed as before. That’s the mentality congressional Democrats displayed in sticking with Nancy Pelosi as their leader after a 63-seat loss in the elections.
We should all be hopeful, however, that more Democrats take the tack that Cuomo is taking (at least rhetorically; as McGurn notes, his words still must be put into action). Again from McGurn’s column, here are some of the things Cuomo has had to say in recent days:
“[M]y friends, we must right-size the state government for today. The state government has grown too large, we can’t afford it, the number of local governments has grown too large, and . . . we’re going to have to reduce and consolidate.”
“[I]t cannot be underestimated. Young people all across upstate New York who are leaving because they believe there is no economic future left. The taxpayers on Long Island who are imprisoned in their homes because they can’t afford to pay the property taxes anymore, but the value of the home has dropped so low that they can’t afford to sell the house because they can’t pay off the mortgage. The laid-off construction worker [in] Brooklyn who can’t find a job and is fretting about what he’s going to do to feed his family when the unemployment insurance runs out.”
Again, let’s await some evidence before declaring Andrew Cuomo a new kind of Democrat, not to mention a new kind of Cuomo. But a Democrat who takes that approach to his state’s issues will be a breath of fresh air compared to the crew that now calls the tune for the Dems — as well as a formidable player nationally.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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