Last night, the New York Daily News published an open letter I wrote with my thoughts following Tuesday’s election. The letter can be found below.
Those of us who have spent time in politics know that losing is part of the experience. Still, Secretary Hillary Clinton’s defeat on Tuesday was a particularly difficult experience, heartbreaking and bewildering and indeed frightening all at once. I wanted to share some thoughts on how we must acquit ourselves in the days ahead.
As Clinton said, when Donald Trump takes office, we will owe him an open mind and a chance to lead. The fate of the ship always takes precedence over the identity of the captain, and we must loyally do our part to protect the ship.
The night he became commander-in-chief, Donald Trump said he wanted to be President of all Americans. Despite the divisiveness of the campaign, he has an opportunity to live up to that promise by acting first on issues where there is common ground with his opponents. He said he wants to govern on behalf of forgotten Americans, and any time he does that, he can count on both Democrats and Republicans to help him achieve success.
Trump also said that he wants to rebuild America’s infrastructure. In that effort, he will find New York a willing partner as the Tappan Zee Bridge, a new La Guardia Airport, a new cross-Hudson Tunnel, and a revitalized Penn Station continue to rise.
But while we honor America by honoring the results of the election, we will fight as fiercely as we can, at every opportunity that presents itself, to reject the hateful attitudes that pervaded throughout the 2016 campaign. We cannot unhear what we have heard. The voices of the Ku Klux Klan, white nationalism, authoritarianism, misogyny and xenophobia. A generally disdainful view of American ideals.
We all hoped that when we woke up on Nov. 9 the ugliness of this campaign season would finally be gone. But on the day after Election Day, a swastika and the words “make America white again” appeared, spray painted on a softball dugout in Wellsville — in our state of New York.
I cannot and will not pretend that these things are normal even if millions of Americans voted for a campaign either because of these values or in spite of them. I know there are millions more people like me — both Democrats and Republicans who reject them. As I said on other occasions, this election was for the soul of America, and that is why today so many of us feel as we do today; we are soul sick. But as we accept the results of the election, we do not accept these positions.
Americans fought these attitudes before the 2016 election, and we will fight them for as long as it takes to vanquish them. That is our mission, and our dedication to its success does not depend on the occupant of the White House. Americans pledge themselves to “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” One election does not erase that commitment.
We Democrats are not without resources. In Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Democrats in Congress have leaders who are brilliant parliamentarians, and who will advance our causes even as they will provide a bulwark for our values. But let us also look to our state governments as places where progress can be made. One of the reasons why so many of the programs of President Roosevelt’s New Deal proved effective is that he had tried them out while he was governor of New York. Initiatives like Marriage Equality were enacted in New York and other states before they became the law of the land. Congress has refused to act on gun control, but we enacted a tough law in New York, and California, Nevada, and Washington strengthened their gun laws on Tuesday.
While the world struggles to come to consensus on how to combat climate change, we in New York have banned fracking and set a renewable energy standard requiring 50% of our electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030. This year in New York State, we enacted a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the nation’s best Paid Family Leave program, and dedicated more funding to education than ever before. And in this state, we accomplished these successes with a divided legislature: Democrats and Republicans coming together, proving you can be progressive and bipartisan. Indeed, there is more than one path to progress.
Soon enough we will see what proposals will find their way into the President-elect’s agenda. Already it seems almost every far-right Republican under the sun is seeing Trump’s electoral college victory a mandate to enact sweeping ideas and radical proposals, regardless of the pain that is inflicted and the turmoil that is caused. I have great faith that common sense will eventually prevail, and that our traditional American values of justice, liberty and equality will eventually rule the day. In the end, they always have.
Both Democrats and Republicans have fought for these values throughout our nation’s history — from the time when Abraham Lincoln declared we were a nation with malice toward none and charity for all, to when a young Senator from the State of Illinois said: There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The way has not always been easy, nor has the cost been cheap; but for whatever this moment demands of us, we are ready.
My father Mario Cuomo spent his entire life fighting against the death penalty, even when it wasn’t popular, even when it cost him the governorship, because he knew it was right. I will fight against the targeting of Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and for the rights of all Americans every day I hold office and every day after that.
For our values, for our rights, for our vision of America, for the people who depend on us, we will fight. And for that, we are unwilling to compromise.