Mario Cuomo died on 1.1.2015. Upon hearing this, I posted to FB:
First sad news of 2015-Mario Cuomo has passed. Eloquent, passionate, yet never quite ready to take the leap and run for President. A man of substance, expression, and passion. He was perhaps the only person in the 1980’s political arena who could hold his own against Ronald Reagan at the lectern. As a young man he had enough baseball skills to get signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and smart enough to know he did not have what it took to make The Show and used his signing bonus to buy an engagement ring for his fiancé. Requiscat in Pacem, Mario. May Angels Wings lift you to your reward.
And…I thought that was that.
It seems I missed the mark. Since then the running commentary on so many blogs has been what a “liberal” he was, and how his son (current NY Governor Andrew Cuomo) is just as bad, etc.
These responses to Cuomo’s passing are mostly disrespectful of a man who spent years in politics, was never tarred by scandal, and was consistent in his viewpoint from Day one. You might not agree with the man, but you always knew exactly where he stood and why.
Sadly these comments point out two things that have been lost in the political arena since my youth.
The first is comity. It seems no longer possible to be friendly or even polite to people on the other side of the aisle. It is a world where words like “conservative” and “liberal” are delivered with the same intent to hurt and demean that words like “selfish”, “venal”, and “evil” were once used. It is another example of how the farther we get from the political leadership of the Greatest Generation the more nasty and uncollegial politics has become.
At the same time as we have diminished comity, we have also lost-and in some ways willingly jettisoned-any idea that our political leaders should be able to give us a complete view of governance. You may not like Mario Cuomo, but Cuomo could tell you not only what he believed in but offer an intellectual and moral justification for it. Too often candidates for office not only speak only in glittering generalities of what they are going to do if elected, but are completely unable to offer a comprehensive view of why they are going to do it.
Thirty years ago there were articulate spokesmen for both parties who could bring a house down arguing and promoting not just policies but also principle. They could argue forcefully and eloquently, and not suggest that those in opposition to their points of view were evil.
We don’t really have that today. If we did the GOP and the Democratic Party would bring more to the political discussion than “It’s the Right Thing to Do”.
That’s why Mario Cuomo’s death is more than a moment of sadness for a public servant. It’s a moment to reflect on what we have lost, and how much we need to get it back.