Cuomo’s speech was meant to echo his father Mario Cuomo’s legendary 1984 DNC address. The elder Cuomo was one of the greatest orators of the last half-century. He was remarkably gifted, capable of delivering speeches that were simultaneously deeply felt, cutting, and uncommonly shrewd—he had a literary gift as well as a gift for the moment. (In many ways, Barack Obama is his heir as a speaker.)
Andrew Cuomo’s DNC address had one foot planted in the past (his father’s) and another planted in the future (his inevitable presidential run). But he does not have his father’s talent for speaking and he certainly does not share his father’s reputation. Andrew Cuomo can certainly boast a progressive record as governor of New York—raising the minimum wage, banning fracking, barring assault weapons, and legalizing same-sex marriage—but Cuomo has been far from progressive on other issues. At best, he has cut spending and taxes for the rich while pushing popular social reforms. At worst, he’s paranoid and corrupt. He created a fake women’s political party to siphon votes from the progressive Working Families Party, ordered the blacklisting of groups that support boycotting Israeli products, and has been subpoenaed in a corruption investigation of the controversial Buffalo Billion project, in which Cuomo donors allegedly benefited from state funds.
But even if he were the right Democrat for this moment, which he isn’t, he’s a godawful public speaker, which was more than apparent on Thursday evening. He has no sense of cadence and instead only projects. More than anything, he lacks what his father had for days—soul. Mario Cuomo was a lovable could-have-been-a-contender who was guided by principle; Andrew Cuomo is a cutthroat pol whose enemy’s enemy is always his friend.