Mario Cuomo on Principles & Values

Former Democratic Governor of New York


Endorsed by Rudy Giuliani across party lines

On October 24, 1994, Mayor Giuliani stunned and infuriated his fellow Republicans by endorsing the incumbent governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, who was seeking an unprecedented fourth term, instead of his own party's candidate, a relatively unknown but highly competent Westchester County state senator name George Pataki.
Source: Giuliani: Flawed or Flawless, by D. & G. Strober, p.162 , Jan 16, 2007

We campaign in poetry but we govern in prose

[During the Northern Ireland peace negotiations with the U.K., when one participant looked] pretty churlish, Bill Clinton said to me, "someone should tell him that part of the art of politics is smiling when you feel like you're swallowing a turd." He also used that great line from Mario Cuomo, "We campaign in poetry but we govern in prose." It's about who clears the drains, he said.
Source: The Blair Years, by Alastair Campbell, p.320 , Sep 3, 1998

Laissez-faire replaced by pooled common resources

The soul of America has developed in two phases: the first, 150 years during which our staunch individualism was reflected in our laissez-faire government, and the second, the last six decades during which we created a modern America by learning to use our common resources more intelligently. With what seems a sudden spasm, America has been shoved onto a new political course that heads us backward toward our nation’s first century. In the 1990s, we’ve watched a new syndrome develop: an economy that is very good for investors but punishing to our workers with moderate or low skills.

In our second century as a nation, we began to pool our resources, through government, to cushion ourselves against the unavoidable perils of the free market. We improved our living standards and working conditions, provided services that benefit and strengthen us, and protected and nurtured our most vulnerable members. In doing so, we amplified our potential for greatness.

Source: Reason to Believe, by Mario Cuomo, p. 7-8 & 17 , Jul 2, 1995

GOP Contract With America philosophizes a “New Harshness”

The Contract With America espouses a new political philosophy that ignores many of the nation’s real needs and real potential, makes negativism an operating principle, and celebrates punishment as the instrument for restoring civility. This New Harshness is a philosophy that takes pleasure in “tough-minded” phrases like “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”-and can even justify a certain hard-nosed pride in proposing no lunch at all for some people.

Republicans claim that the social safety net woven during the New Deal and the Great Society has become a “hammock”-fostering the image of lazy poor folk lolling about while the rest of America sweats.

[My main criticism] of the Contract is: it demands no more of our political leaders than that they set sail in whatever direction the political winds seem to be blowing. The Contract essentially abdicates any responsibility for genuine political foresight, offering us instead the top ten popular complaints and top ten appealing home remedies.

Source: Reason to Believe, by Mario Cuomo, p. 9-10 & 39 , Jul 2, 1995

Underlying principle: We’re all in this together

To deal effectively with our problems we must understand, accept, and apply one fundamental, indispensable proposition. It is the ancient truth that drove primitive people together to ward off their enemies and wild beasts, to find food and shelter, to raise their children in safety, and eventually to raise up a civilization. Now, in this ever more complex world, we need to accept and apply this basic truth: that we’re all in this together, like a family, interconnected and interdependent, and that we cannot afford to revert to a world of “us against them.” It is the one great idea that is indispensable to realizing our full potential as a people.

It is also the ancient wisdom. The Hebrew sages told the Jews that their role in life is to repair the entire universe: tikkun olam. Christians are taught that their task is to complete God’s work in the world, that we are all, no matter how small, “collaborators in creation.”

Source: Reason to Believe, by Mario Cuomo, p. 11-12 & 81 , Jul 2, 1995

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Page last updated: Oct 27, 2021