The Lessons of the Cuomo Coalition

by Reihan Salam

Blake Zeff of Buzzfeed argues that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial decision to back the coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats that now controls the State Senate has been vindicated:

By tacitly supporting a controversial power arrangement whereby a handful of Democratic state senators abandoned the elected Democratic majority to swing control of the senate to the Republicans (in exchange for resources and co-equal authority), Cuomo set up his ideal arrangement.

Rather than a powerful Democratic majority (as the voters had elected) that could provide real checks on him, Cuomo now had a loose, decentralized state senate power structure that was far easier for him to control. In fact, he announced that he would only publicly support the governing coalition’s legitimacy to the extent itacted on his top ten policy priorities, and would withhold or offer this support on a piecemeal, case-by-case basis.

Even more appetizing for him, Cuomo no longer had to worry about a united Democratic assembly and senate pushing him to act on liberal priorities that pushed him out of his comfort zone. By definition, a hybrid Republican-Democratic coalition is not going to present Cuomo with legislation that pushes him too far left or too far right (in fact, for all the gun safety reforms in this latest package, there are also conservative measures, like increased penalties). For a self-styled “consensus” guy, Goldilocks herself couldn’t have asked for better.

One wonders if a similar arrangement might take hold at the national level. That is hard to imagine now, as we’ve had three polarizing presidents in a row. But given what looks to be a near-permanent condition of legislative brinksmanship, and the dysfunctional candidate-centered politics fostered by campaign finance regulation, some kind of coalition arrangement might make sense under a future president. 

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.