The New York State Conservative Party inviting Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to speak at its annual dinner signals no change in the ideology of the party. Conservative Party chairman Mike Long has always been a strong advocate of smaller government and tighter budgets. The state’s fourth largest political party is really the third largest. The Independence Party is third only because the name of the party confuses newly registered voters that want to remain independent, and so they unwittingly check of the capital “I” – Independence Party. Truly independent voters would check of “I do not wish to enroll in a party” in order to be independent.
So, for the sake of honesty, let’s just say the state’s ‘quite large’ fourth party is the Conservative Party. The party was formed following the ideological footsteps of Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. It was created to push the then left leaning Republican Party back to the right. The theory was to then disband the party once the GOP moved away from Rockefeller’s liberal Republicanism.
Andrew Cuomo is proposing to streamline local governments. It’s a bold and interesting idea. For the longest time, Long Island and upstate New York politicians have created these separate government entities as a means to give patronage jobs to friends and supporters. Now the Attorney General is suggesting we revisit all this in order to make government more responsive and less expensive. Mike Long thinks it is worth considering. After all, the Conservative Party’s candidates are often not part of the patronage machine. Conservative Party candidates run on their own money and, while they do not often get elected (unless they share a line with Republicans or Democrats,) they rarely owe anyone anything in return.
It is for this reason that Long has stayed true to his ideology. People have criticized the Conservative Party for endorsing pro-choice candidates in recent years, but what lights up the core of the party – a belief in a smaller government - still shines. Mike Long doesn’t care if Cuomo is a Democrat, he cares that someone is talking about fixing government.
This is clearly an effort by Cuomo to court support for some future race. It is not the work that we expect from an attorney general, but Cuomo is better at policy than he is at campaigning, and so opportunities to talk about policy are important to him. If Cuomo can make the case that he wants to introduce a bold plan to restructure government and save tax payers money, he is speaking to the right crowd.
For too long the Conservatives have been stereotyped as people living in another era that belong to a value system not entirely compatible with today’s America. Now, with budgets in every state being squeezed and a federal government that spent the last eight years writing blank checks, it appears that the Conservatives were right on many of these counts.
Long may not say if the party is willing to endorse Cuomo, which would be interesting since Cuomo’s father was the voice of liberalism – or anti-Reaganism - in the 1980s. But putting Cuomo on their line should be brought with a degree of caution. Remember that Cuomo was once a gubernatorial candidate on the New York State Liberal Party line. When he agreed to drop out of the race, he remained on the Liberal line. He received very few votes (around 16,000) and so the Liberal Party lost its automatic slot on the New York State ballot. If Cuomo did the same thing on the Conservative Party line, he could, in effect, sink that party as well. Unless that is his ultimate plan, which in this case makes him a genius, or an evil genius…depending on how you vote.