Mario Cuomo former three time governor of New York is dead. His son Andrew Cuomo who himself is a two time governor of New York gave a moving elegy the other day. It was the story of every-day solid New York immigrant people. And this is where the interest comes in for me.
Andrew’s grandfather was born in Brooklyn, and worked as a grocer in Jamaica, Queens, NY. The family came over from Italy along with hundreds of thousands of others late in the nineteenth century.
Behind him stands a family tradition of cart drivers and butchers. Exactly the every-day sort of people whose drive and hard work made America. If they have anyone at all before Mario that could claim public limelight then it is a distant relative, Professor Aurelio Giordamos, an expert on Pizza, and one of the “Seven Wise of Pizza” as per the Italian Federation of Restaurants and Pizzerias term them.
Theirs is the story of the landless peasant made good and the dream of the New World writ large. The back story of thousands of families in the States.
It’s what happens to the family when it gains power that is fascinating.
Mario became one of the great Democrat politicians of the twentieth century. He was a three time Governor of New York, a wonderful speaker and a potential shoo-in 1992 for Presidential candidate, when he took the hump over something and stumped off, leaving the stage to Clinton.
We have seen in previous posts that American politics have at their core a sizable number of families bound together by blood and marriage, obligations and debts, that squat on the offices of State and act oligarchically as a political cartel working against the proper free flow of power and representation, trapping an undue quantity of it for themselves, and for their interests.
Many have been there since even before the beginning of America as a political idea, others muscle in later on, pushing the deader wood aside but making their own oligarchical connections as they establish themselves in turn. The names of the families may change slightly but their numbers as a percentage of the population remain roughly the same. Perhaps, as The Political Graveyard site suggests, 400 to 500 families (many themselves interconnected) in a country of 300,000,000.
The Kennedys (to pluck one such by random) are one of these thrusting sharp elbowed families wresting power by brilliance, maintaining it by marriages.
Here is one example at President Kennedy’s generation showing some connections to the Gore and Carter families. Its from John Kerry and Al Gore –The Chuckle Brothers.
Andrew Cuomo married Kerry Kennedy the daughter of Robert Kennedy and Ethel Skakel. It was seen from the off as a political marriage of two great forces in Democrat politics. When you marry into an oligarch family you buy into all of the connections. The tree below comes from Andrew Cuomo will he wont he?
Cuomo isn’t the sole beneficiary of a link with the Kennedys. Senator Teddy Kennedy married his second wife Victoria, who is linked to the ruling families of Lebanon. The tree below came from Victoria Kennedy 2012 exploring the chances of her running in 2012.
Party isn’t important, its only a vehicle, this is about power. In any event there is not much to choose between Republicans and Democrats (which is why the Tea Party and Occupy has both of them so worried). So we find that Maria Shriver marries Arnie Schwarzenegger, Governor of California.
All of which means, that whilst the main oligarchical family goes through a fallow spell, as the Kennedys are in at the moment, they keep in the game through their marriage connections and other obligated souls, and when a new sprog steps forward the favours are looked to be repaid, with now established political members supporting him or her forward.
(An example of what I mean by “Obligated souls” can be seen with the close relationship of Carte Patrick Goodwin’s family and the Rockefellers posted here at Carte Patrick Goodwin & Rockefeller.)
Except the Kennedys are not your average oligarchical family and that makes the betting this time more difficult. Unlike the Frelinghuysens, Bushes or the Udalls they don’t play by the rule of keep it sensible, keep it local. Most of all keep it down, and don’t draw too much attention to yourselves. Kennedy is all about attention, Kennedy is politics as show business, For the Kennedys politics is all glitz and glam, liquid eyes and flashing teeth.
So when things went wrong between Kerry and Andrew, and “Cuomolot” fell, they contrived to have the most acrimonious divorce possible. “Operatic” was how Huff Post described it, saying it left Andrew politically naked. Could it have been anything else with the Kennedys? It did nothing for either side, damaging two of the leading families in the Democrat camp.
That said matters have seemingly cooled sufficiently to no longer get in the way and for Andrew to have learned some valuable lessons. The families seem less at war, so may act for a common good, especially if Douglas Brinkly the historian and author is right and Kerry is being talked of as “a huge star in the Democrat Party in NY” and having ambitions of her own once the kids are a big bigger.
So although Mario Cuomo was not himself an oligarch, his linkage through having Andrew marry Kennedy blood makes him a “novo homo” in the Roman sense. The gauche openness of the Kennedys also lets us glimpse the mechanics of how the oligarchy works at keeping itself in power and everyone else out.
Copyright David Macadam 2015