Governor Andrew Cuomo wasn’t going to avoid the comparisons to his father’s famous 1984 “Tale of Two Cities” Democratic National Convention keynote speech — so he didn’t try. New York’s current governor acknowledged the legacy of Mario Cuomo’s convention speech as he began his own: For many, Cuomo said, that speech “defined the values and the principles of the Democratic Party.”
The elder Cuomo, who died in 2015, just after his son was sworn into a second term in Albany, made more than one cameo in Andrew Cuomo’s address. The current governor took the stage just before prime-time (slightly better placement than his downstate frenemy Mayor Bill de Blasio), and took the opportunity to argue against the GOP’s platform of fear and to make the case that Democrats were both “dreamers” and “doers.” Cuomo described the stakes in this election as “the very soul of America.”
“Their message comes down to this,” Cuomo said, “be afraid of people who are different.” He reminded the Republicans that unless they’re Native Americans, “they are all immigrants, too” — one of a few clichés peppered throughout the speech. “If we listen to the Republicans,” Cuomo cried, “they will cut this nation in half and tear one against the other.”
Cuomo acknowledged that the Republicans’ campaign of fear is a "powerful weapon." "But fear has never created a job," Cuomo cried," and fear has never educated a child, and fear has never built a home, and fear has never built a community, and fear will never build a nation." He questioned the "good old days" the Republicans pine for, explaining, "We have a different vision. We’re not going back, we’re going forward."
Forward, like in New York. Cuomo touted the state’s progressive accomplishments under his tenure, including raising the minimum wage to $15, passing a paid family-leave law, banning fracking, outlawing assault weapons, and ensuring marriage equality. "We did it together without leaving anyone behind and without leaving anyone out," Cuomo said, then in Tim Kaine–style: "Somos uno, ‘we are one’. We say there is a cord that connects you to you to you to me. When one of us is raised, we are all raised. When one of us is lowered, we are all lowered."
The New York delegation led the applause as Cuomo listed the state’s liberal accomplishments. But the governor got the strongest and fiercest cheers from the arena, and particularly the New York delegation, when he brought up 9/11:
“We saw death and we saw destruction, but we also saw something else. My friends, we saw this nation come together like it had never come together before. We weren’t black or white or brown, but red and white and blue, and those are the only colors that matter in the United States of America. And in that moment we were one, and we achieved community, and we were there for each other … We cried together and we mourned together and then we got up and rebuilt together. Today the freedom tower stands taller than ever before … When this country stands together there is nothing that we can’t do.”
“Hillary Clinton is the person to make that goal a reality,” Cuomo finally said. “She will unify, not divide, this nation, and move us forward together. That’s why we must make Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States.”
Cuomo finished where he began, with a remembrance of his father, and a plea for Mario to watch out for us all in these Trumpian times. “He was the keynote speaker for this nation’s better angels,” Cuomo said. “Pop, wherever you are, and I think I know where, at this time of fear, help this country remember what truly makes it great.”