A current reminder of forgotten history

T.A. Barnhart

In just a few hours, the biggest day of the 2008 primary campaign begins. It will be an historic day, as will that day in November when America elects, for the first time ever, either a woman or an African-American as president. This year is going to hum with history in the making — and we can be part of it.

But in the time before Super Tuesday, I want to share a moment from our past. (h/t to Crooks & Liars, where I was watching the short video "Digital Pamphleteer", which led me to search for this on YouTube.) In 1984, New York Gov Mario Cuomo delivered the keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention. For those of you too young to remember the Reagan years, or those whose memories have been distorted by the ugliness of the past seven years, it's difficult to portray briefly what a terrible time that was. Reagan virtually spat on the poor and downcast; to the Republicans, they were mere political roadkill. We lived in actual fear of nuclear war for the first time since the 50s because the man in the White House was out-of-touch enough to hit the button. The mentally ill were turned out into the streets. And HIV was considered a fag thing, so the U.S. government ignored it until it was far too late.

So when you listen to Mario Cuomo, hear him speak of what is true today — and realize this was twenty-four years ago. When some of us pause before saying Bush is the worst president ever, it's because we remember Reagan. We remember Ed Meese, Central America death squads, Iran-Contra, James Watt and a morning in America that was little more than the gleaming of fool's gold as the robbers stole our treasure.

On February 5th, we take a big step towards undoing not just the harm of George W Bush, but his father, of Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon — and all the politicians who've made a living in Washington, DC and done nothing to make Mario Cuomo's words obsolete.

But not just the politicians, of course, but the Americans who've let them do this to us. That would be, of course, just about most of us.

  • Dem for Paul (unverified)

    Mario Cuomo should have been President of the U.S. His oratory skills rivaled those of Clinton, Obama, and even JFK. Why he didn't run in '92 is still a mystery, I think. The door was wide open, but something stopped him.

  • LT (unverified)

    I was there! If you look at those waving signs at the end, Oregon's delegation was about 60 rows straight back from the stage. Republicans called us "Those San Francisco Democrats...."as if that was a bad thing. If I am not mistaken, a politically active woman named Nancy Pelosi was one of the organizers, and it was a very well organized convention. I hope whoever is elected delegates to this year's convention has as good an experience.

    There IS room in politics for soaring oratory, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

    As far as why Mario didn't run in 1992, there could have been several reasons. It was reported that in some parts of this country in 1984 Geraldine Ferraro got more flak for being Italian than for being the first woman VP nominee.

  • NewYorkerinPDX (unverified)

    The question we should be asking isn't why Gov. Cuomo never ran for President (or accepted a position on the Supreme Court) but how he managed to lose to a political lightweight like George Pataki?

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)

    Dem For Paul:

    Mario Cuomo should have been President of the U.S. His oratory skills rivaled those of Clinton, Obama, and even JFK.

    Bob T:

    I've always thought that he was quite good at that sort of thing.

    Dem For Paul:

    Why he didn't run in '92 is still a mystery, I think. The door was wide open, but something stopped him.

    Bob T:

    I think you can trace that to the then-high approval ratings for George H.W. Bush which caused all of the top rank Democratic candidates to announce, by mid 1991 or so, that they would not run. These announcements surprised everyone I think, because reporters covered their announcements expecting routine statements that they were seeking the nomination. Some candidates didn't even bother making such an announcement but it was obvious that they, too, were so put off by Bush's high popularity ratings that it seemed a waste of time and money to run. Clinton was one of two who announced (obviously he wasn't a top level candidate despite what some of you may say), and even he didn't expect to win or get nominated but wanted to build a support organization for 1996. Bush's drop in popularity (which he earned all by himself by being one of the two worst Republican presidents of all time, the other being his son) came too late for the better Dem candidates to rethink their withdrawals.

    Bob Tiernan

  • Gordie (unverified)
    <h2>TA, didn't we live in fear of nuclear war on some other occasions since the 1950s, like for instance the Cuban missile crisis? Let's not trade one revisionist history for another.</h2>

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