Saturday, June 25, 2011

Progressive Versus Fauxgressive

WaPo editorial on last night's passage of marriage equality in the Republican-controlled New York Senate nicely clarifies the distinction between a progressive Democrat (NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo) and a fauxgressive Democrat (MD Gov. Martin "You, Sir, Are No Jack Kennedy" O'Malley). Cuomo, according to the Post, fought hard for the bill, which makes civil marriage equality the law of six states and more than doubles the number of citizens who live in states that offer it: "[Cuomo] used the bully pulpit to garner public support around the state. He backed that up by using the power and prestige of the governor’s office behind the scenes. Cuomo was personally involved in securing votes until the very end."

Cuomo's high-profile activism on the issue and the legislative outcome are pretty much the opposite of what we saw in Maryland a few months ago when a marriage equality bill was up for a vote. Democrats here in the Free State control the House and Senate and occupy the governor's mansion. The Post explains how little that proved to matter for the state's LGBT citizens this spring:
The history made in New York stands in stark contrast to the disappointment in Maryland last March, when a similar effort failed. After passing the state Senate, a marriage-equality bill was referred back to committee in the House of Delegates after lawmakers who had supported the bill backed down in the face of opposition. Among those reneging on their commitment were Del. Tiffany T. Alston (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County), who got elected campaigning on the issue. For his part, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) supported the marriage-equality bill. He even lobbied some legislators behind the scenes. But as we learned in New York, legislation of this significance needs more than rhetorical hand-holding by the governor. It needs determined leadership.
Rhetorical hand-holding versus determined leadership, platitudes versus action, bull$hit versus the bully pulpit, losing versus winning: Yep, that sums up the difference between the fauxgressive and the progressive Democrat about as well as anything we've seen. We wish we could believe that You, Sir, Are No Jack Kennedy would aspire to be the latter rather than the former as he moves forward in his promising political career, but we're not holding our breath waiting for the tiger to change his stripes. O'Malley, we have learned, is less of a tiger than a pretty but ineffective kitty cat when it comes to tough fights on hot-button issues.

Thank you, Gov. Cuomo, for showing how it's done, and congratulations, New York, for bending the arc of the moral/legal universe a little further in the direction of justice here in the Weirdly Divided States of America. We heart you today and always.

(Photo Credits: Top: Nathaniel Brooks for the New York Times [via]; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs same-sex marriage bill late last night in Albany. Bottom: via; Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley looks up, in hope, perhaps, of finding his missing courage.)


  1. Yay New York!

    (It strikes me as... well, deeply patriarchal, that there are no women in the upper picture. I guess none of the big players in NY politics are female these days?)

    Still, yay!

  2. Does O'Malley the Gutless Wonder's style of leadership remind you of anyone else, Roxie?

    Seems like it's fashionable to say nice things to the gays when they're at $2,500 a plate fundraisers but promise nothing.

  3. (Dead dog reaches for virtual thinking cap, scratches head, rolls over, stretches legs into air thoughtfully, as if reaching for an answer to Historiann's question.)

    Nope, nuh-uh, can't think of a single other example of this kind of thing in Democratic politics, unless -- oh, wait just a second now, something is slowly rising up from the depths of consciousness -- you could be thinking of a certain president who has described himself as a fierce advocate for LGBT equality but turns out to be, in fact, a fierce advocate of his own reelection? Is that the guy you have in mind, Historiann? The one who has suddenly become passionately committed to states' rights rather than gay rights?

    Gosh, Historiann, if I didn't know better, I'd say your newly embraced gay identity has made you cynical or something! Don't be so hard on poor President Fauxbama -- He knows what he's doing, even if none of the rest of do.

  4. I'm really impressed with Cuomo on this. Really, really impressed. He made it clear from the get-go that this was his priority, made it *very* clear that it would be in other politician's best interest to work with him, and then framed it in public as being on "the right side of history."

    And Historiann's read my mind. I keep hoping in my heart of hearts that he's pulling strings behind the scenes, but some committed leadership would be really nice to see. Cuz right now, it looks a lot like "If you won't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."

    How do we break the linkage between votes and money?

  5. @Digger: The question of how to break the linkage between votes and money is way beyond my pay grade, but I second your point on the importance of framing issues like this as a matter of standing "on the right side of history." I've never understood why so few Dems have had the sense to embrace same-sex marriage as a golden opportunity to wave the flag and exhort citizens to do what is so obviously fair and in keeping with the happy American belief in the expansion of rights. One can only hope that the success in New York will help leaders in other states to find such courage.

  6. President Fauxbama


    Except, you have to hand it to the guy. He never tried to claim the liberal/progressive mantle--it was projected onto him by Dems who couldn't stand Hillary and/or Bill Clinton.

    Imagine a Republican standing up to give a speech about how "there is no Red America, there is no Blue American, there is only the United States of America." S/he wouldn't even make it through the Iowa straw poll. But Dems go ahead and nominate the guy and then wonder why he is eager to adopt Republican ideas and frames. Go figure.

    It's such a relief to me that I can enjoy Gay Marriage now. We'll see how it compares to straight marriage.

  7. I've never understood why so few Dems have had the sense to embrace same-sex marriage as a golden opportunity to wave the flag and exhort citizens to do what is so obviously fair and in keeping with the happy American belief in the expansion of rights.

    Because centrism bipartisanship reach across the aisle bridge the divide one america&%%$%^%&^&((((*&^%$W^Q^Q%E&QE&Q&E&%Ebeepbeepbeep I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

  8. I've though more about this. One of the things that I really liked about Cuomo is that HE framed the issue. Proactive vs. reactive. It's really hard to say, "Gee, thanks, but I'd really rather be on the wrong side of history."

    Compare this to those against social changes, who have been allowed to frame the argument as "family values" and "what about the childrenz." Democrats really need to learn to lead with an argument that makes the other guys look like asshats if they disagree. This is not the same thing as being reasonable and resorting to logic (though one would hope that reason and logic were behind it, somewhere).

    I am tired of the "I'll say anything to get money and votes from you, and then run my own damn bus over you in thanks -- if I remember you're there at all." Really tired.

    I wonder if Cuomo or Gillibrand have oval office aspirations?

  9. I hope that Cuomo has oval office aspirations. There's a politician with courage, and that's the kind for whom I like to vote.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.