COLTON — Does Gov. Andrew Cuomo really want to stay put in the governor’s mansion for eight more years, as he has said, or is he planning a move to the White House?
He is backing Joe Biden, but does Biden really have the broad support of Democratic voters that the polls suggest? Given the party’s peculiar brand of identity politics, can it stomach such a glaringly white candidate?
Of course, Cuomo is white, too, but not as white as Biden. With his milk-white skin and northern European features, Biden belongs to that enemy race that Malcolm X execrated in his message to the grassroots: blue eyes, blond hair, pale skin — the white man. He also is old, and Democrats are against anything that is old and abiding, especially old white men.
Cuomo has an olive complexion and Mediterranean features. He might even be taken for Middle Eastern. Much more so than Biden, he is what the Democrats have in mind when they talk about people who “look like America.” And he has the ethnic-sounding name, which he didn’t have to change to make himself sound more ethnic, as did Beto O’Rourke and Bill de Blasio.
Should Biden’s candidacy start to lose its luster, who but Cuomo would have the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump? Bernie Sanders’s socialism does not appeal to many Americans and is especially unattractive to those who have built up small or big businesses and do not want to see the fruits of their labor taken from them under an expropriate-the-productive scheme. And Sanders also is an old white man. And race matters, even that of a staunch socialist.
Beto O’Rourke is young and white, which is better than being old and white. But is his Great Apologizer routine endearing him to women voters? On “The View,” Beto’s cringing as he apologized over and over again to the women surrounding him was a sorry spectacle. Despite how much some of them might deny it, women are attracted to strength and power in a man: The cavewoman still wants the caveman; Jane still wants Tarzan. When you compare Beto’s performance to Trump’s virile presence and mastery of the situation on “The View” back in 2011, the difference is stark.
Elizabeth Warren is the poor woman’s Hillary Clinton. and let’s face it: The Democrats are not going to nominate a white woman for president in 2020. Warren, despite the history of high cheekbones in her family and her small amount of American Indian blood, can do nothing to obscure her European ancestry or her wholesome, Midwestern looks. She would have to get a lot of sun to be appealing to the Democrats.
Kamala Harris is in many ways the ideal Democratic candidate: Barack Obama + Hillary Clinton = Kamala Harris. And she is another candidate who for the Democrats “looks like America.”
It’s true that some people of color seem to feel that mixed-race, light-skinned Harris is not black enough. CNN’s Don Lemon is obsessed with the question of whether Harris is a bona-fide ADOS (American descendant of slavery). One black YouTube blogger complains: “You can’t run black and marry white.”
On Election Day, however, these racial niceties will be forgotten. Lyndon Johnson’s prediction about the enduring loyalty of people of color to the Democratic Party has held true.
But the Democrats will not run Harris against Trump when Cuomo is their best bet. As Cuomo’s vice presidential candidate, however, Harris would be ideal. She would mitigate Cuomo’s whiteness. And being from California, she would provide geographical balance to the ticket. And, of course, she is a woman.
It will truly be the battle of the Titans if Cuomo gets the nomination. Both he and Trump have been extraordinarily successful in life and are exceptionally self-confident; both have that Queens contentiousness. Both are driven and determined; Cuomo in particular has a reputation for political ruthlessness.
In his biography of the governor, “The Contender,” Michael Schnayerson quotes one of Cuomo’s advisers: “Andrew is like a younger brother to me. But if there’s ever a moment when he can take political advantage, he’ll cut someone off at the knees, me or anyone else.”
Trump wants to make America great again; Cuomo remarks dismissively that America was never that great. Trump is the spectacularly successful businessman; Cuomo is the consummate government bureaucrat.
Whoever the Democratic nominee will be, the real wild card in the election is not white Americans but first- and second-generation immigrants, a demographic the Democrats take for granted. Many of these immigrant families came from countries that have historically been riven by racial, ethnic and sectarian rivalries.
They came to America to escape that. Trump offers these immigrants an American identity. The Democrats offer them what they fled.
Kevin Beary is a Colton resident. He is a retired English professor who taught at the University of Florence in Italy.