The rally was standard Democratic boilerplate: in favor of abortion rights, and against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But it soon became apparent that for the hundred or so attendees who gathered at the foot of Union Square in the broiling July heat, it was really about something else: defeating not just Trump’s nominee to the Court, but Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and at least a quarter of the Democratic lawmakers that he had endorsed last spring.
“For too long the state Senate has been holding progressive legislation hostage!” shouted Jasi Robinson, a candidate in a legislative district that covers Staten Island and Brooklyn. “The hostage deal is over. We are going to need a commitment from all of you to come out and vote for me and the rest of the resisters that are out here! It was us! We did this! We put the fear into King Cuomo! Get fired up because we are at war!”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. For seven years, a group of breakaway Democrats in the state Senate who called themselves “the Independent Democratic Conference” aligned with the GOP, at times handing Republicans the majority, and at others padding the GOP’s lead. The group was widely believed to be the brainchild of Cuomo, since their existence allowed him to keep his distance from a fractious Democratic caucus and to keep his centrist credentials by avoiding the messy business of vetoing progressive legislation that was sure to come from a legislature where both houses were controlled by downstate Democrats.