After months bathed in golden light, the sun seems to have slipped behind some clouds for one leading New York politician. There've been verbal gaffes, policy defeats and slipping poll numbers. An aura of invincibility has been shaken.
No, I'm not talking about Bill de Blasio. I'm talking about Andrew Cuomo.
Am I insane? Or just stupid? I mean, everybody knows that the politician in New York who's sinking in quicksand is the super-lefty mayor, not the carefully centrist governor, right? The image we all have is of Cuomo coolly outmaneuvering de Blasio without so much as dirtying his massive hands, while the mayor stumbles all over his big lanky self trying to steal Success Academy students' lunch money.
Well, Cuomo has recently witnessed the awkward stumble of the DREAM Act and the apparent stillbirth of his college-for-prisoners plan. In the past couple months he's had to address “divisive” comments, his own and supporters'. And his latest poll numbers look a bit softer than the previous batch—not soft enough for anyone to worry about Cuomo losing in November, but mildly distressing to a governor who wants to prevail by a historically large margin.
Of course, Cuomo is still a formidable force. We read today about his administration apparently blocking de Blasio's efforts to get a new, temporary homeless housing program to replace the one whose disappearance three years ago has contributed to the massive shelter numbers we see today. We know that Cuomo has scoffed at the State Senate's fully funding the de Blasio UPK plan; so much for the “blank check” that the gov offered.
These co-existing truths—that Cuomo is far from invincible and that he still remains the biggest shark in the bay—make the quiet emergence of an anti-Cuomo protest movement interesting. On March 14 there was a protest at his downstate office against his pro-charter education policies. Last week there was a demonstration at the state capitol over his education stance and planned tax cuts.
It's not exactly Occupy 2014, but it might be the start of some real pressure on Cuomo from the left, which, among other things, could give de Blasio a little more room to operate. By making clear that the left can organize and draw numbers, getting out in the street can keep state legislators—who largely control Cuomo's agenda—honest. Marches can also mar the picture of cool competence and control that's a big part of Cuomo's appeal; remember, he's the grown up in the room, who came in to restore order to a dysfunctional capital and take over an executive office held previously by the scandalous Eliot Spitzer and the ineffective David Paterson.
Most importantly, the street activism can counter the narrative that de Blasio is a man without friends, isolated on the left wing with nothing but a phantom electoral mandate and a speeding motorcade to his name. The obstacles Cuomo has encountered the past couple weeks don't erase any of City Hall's own problems. But they do make clear that this is a wrestling match between two Democratic leaders, not a shooting gallery where the governor has the only gun.