I hear it’s time to give President-elect Donald Trump a chance.
Well, I gave him a chance, and then he hired a white nationalist as his chief strategist — so his chance is now up.
Yet he will be our president nonetheless — even though his agenda is so extreme, his campaign was so vile, and his personal character is so lacking.
It is thus time to resist Trump just as Republicans fervently resisted President Obama. And given the stakes, I’m actually willing to “give a chance” to a surprising person: Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Admittedly, I’ve been pretty rough on the governor. But he has a very important role to play in resisting (lawfully) the Trump administration.
For eight years, we’ve watched conservatives use “states’ rights” to their political advantage. There is a model here — not in disregard for the impoverished, but in willingness to use states’ rights to pursue political aims.
So while we shouldn’t ignore conservatives, New Yorkers must remember we voted heavily for Clinton — and we approve of the Obama legacy. Our leaders must therefore defend it.
Enter Gov. Cuomo, who is — as The New York Times characterizes him — competing with New York City mayor Bill De Blasio for the moral role of Trump’s “progressive opponent in chief.”
Days after Trump’s election, Cuomo described New York as a “refuge” for immigrants — and the progressive capital of the nation. He asserted that whether “gay or straight, Muslim or Christian, rich or poor, black or white or brown”, all New Yorkers will be respected.
More recently, he ordered the State Police to establish a special unit to investigate the unfortunate increase in hate crimes since Nov. 8.
For his part, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — who just closed a $25 million settlement with the President-elect as a penalty for running a fraudulent university — has clearly indicated he won’t be resting. “In the months ahead,” he stated, “I expect to take on many more fights with a Trump administration.”
New York should keep it up.
Even after post-election passions have dissipated, Gov. Cuomo must keep the progressive torch going while the Trump presidency runs its course.
I’m worried, though. Cuomo has historically used social progressivism to obscure his economic centrism. And when the federal government has gone hard-right in every respect, that gambit won’t be enough — not in 2020, not in the 2018 midterms, and not in the day-to-day reality of a Trump-dominated Washington.
I’m obviously not saying we should leave behind the millions who will be disenfranchised by a Trump/Republican agenda – e.g., Muslims, Hispanics, women, African-Americans.
But as the returns from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan have shown, Democrats cannot sand down the progressive detail of their economic message so as to attract independents and Republicans at the expense of rank-and-file turnout.
First off, Cuomo should prepare a statewide healthcare package — akin to Romneycare — in case Trump dismantles the Affordable Care Act.
Should we simply replicate Obamacare? Of course not. But given the new circumstances, New York has the opportunity to devise its own healthcare plan — i.e., taking the good parts of Obamacare, making necessary fixes and scrapping the rest.
Another item that requires Albany’s attention is financial reform.
Should Trump repeal the Dodd-Frank legislation of 2010 — which does a decent yet incomplete job at regulating the banks which caused the 2008 recession — we must salvage what we can on a statewide basis. In fact, given our state’s global status as a financial powerhouse, we could effectively veto a federal repeal of financial reform.
Emulating these two legislative accomplishments on a statewide level would demonstrate that Cuomo is ready to shelter the Obama legacy rather than cast the torch in the Trumpian gutter.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Should Medicare and Social Security see privatization, New York must offer its senior citizens a robust public alternative. Moreover, Cuomo must protect and expand environmental protections, and resist efforts to build pipelines like Dakota Access across our state.
And if Trump pulls out of the climate accords agreed to in Paris, we should implement a state-level emissions package and give grants to the climate research that some Republican officials believe is a hoax.
All of this isn’t just in our state’s interes. It’s in Cuomo’s personal interest as well. If he runs for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 on his existing record, he’ll see a Sanders-style challenge he will probably not overcome.
If he wins the Democratic nomination under such circumstances, he will lose the Rust Belt worse than Clinton did. (Imagine the upstate-downstate divide, but magnified across the country.)
New York and our governor both have a unique chance to carry the progressive torch.
Let’s not blow it.
Steve Keller of Averill Park is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.