DMI Blog

Elana Levin

Welcome Governor Spitzer! Thoughts on a Progressive Inaugural

I was watching New York 1 News on Friday as various reporters who've covered New York politics compared the outgoing Pataki administration to their expectations of the incoming Spitzer administration. Brian Lehrer of NYC's local NPR affiliate said something particularly sharp. He basically said that incoming Governor Eliot Spitzer holds a progressive view of government - that government can have a positive role to play in peoples' lives - whereas the Pataki administration did not, at its core, believe in government. Lehrer observed that when officeholders don't believe in government, they don't use their power to create good policy, and when officeholders don't use their power to solve problems they often put that power to cynical use.

The Spitzer campaign's slogan has been "Day One, Everything Changes." That sentiment permeated the new Governors inaugural address, which was really an excellent speech. Reflecting on the past governor's administration, Spitzer said that "Over the last decade, we have seen what can happen when our government stands still in the face of great challenge and inevitable change. We've seen it in the burdensome property taxes and the health care we can't afford." Tackling those problems is foremost in the new Governor's mind, but the inaugural address wasn't about specific issues- it was about why New York State must be a truly progressive state again.

In his speech Governor Spitzer laid out a vision to return New York to its place of leadership- to its role as a state that innovated policy for the rest of the country to emulate. For example, Social Security, a program that was first developed in New York, has been one of the most successful anti-poverty program ever. His speech also emphasized the need for all parts of the state (to paraphrase Ben Franklin) to all hang together or else assuredly hang seperately- entreating politicians to end the divisive and destructive practice of pitting upstate against downstate. He spoke of not bowing to any particular interest group, but doing what's best for everyone.

Spitzer said in his address

We must embrace a progressive vision of government once more--a vision that upholds the values of individuality and community; of entrepreneurship and opportunity; of responsibility and fairness. No one any longer believes in government as a heavy hand that can cure all our ills, but rather we see it as a lean and responsive force that can make possible the pursuit of prosperity and opportunity for all--by softening life's blows, leveling its playing field and making possible the pursuit of happiness that is our god given right... Together, we must strive to build 'One New York' through a politics that operates on the principle that we rise or fall as one people and one state.

The speech is a great example of a modern progressive political oratory in the tradition of Kennedy's "ask not what your country can do for you," melded with Franklin Roosevelt and I would strongly suggest reading the whole speech. Speaking of Roosevelt, New York really does have a legacy of serious political leaders that believed in both government and community. Governor Spitzer's speech laid out a vision that was optimistic about the future and New York's potential greatness, yet aware of the problems we face, all the while being seriously, profoundly, progressive. I am very excited to see how he lives up to it.

His first act as governor was signing five executive orders establishing some ethical guidelines for state workers and creating more government accountability and transparency. Sounds like we are getting the year started on the right foot.
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New York native Howie Klein has a great post on the inauguration on his blog, as does The Albany Project.

Elana Levin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 7:24 AM, Jan 02, 2007 in Government Accountability | Governmental Reform | New York | Politics | Progressive Agenda | Progressives
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