New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat running for re-election, declared to a shocked crowd on Wednesday that America was “never that great.”
“We’re not going to make America great again,” Cuomo said, in an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign slogan. “It was never that great.” Members of the assembled crowd audibly gasped at Cuomo’s remarks.
Cuomo’s remarks slamming America starkly contrasted with those delivered by his father, former three-term New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, to the Democratic National Convention in 1984. In that address, Mario Cuomo praised America as the greatest country on earth and said he learned about America’s greatness by watching and learning from his parents, Andrew Cuomo’s grandparents, as they built their lives together in New York.
“[My mother and father] were able to build a family and live in dignity and see one of their children go from behind their little grocery store in South Jamaica on the other side of the tracks where he was born, to occupy the highest seat, in the greatest State, in the greatest nation, in the only world we would know, is an ineffably beautiful tribute to the democratic process,” Mario Cuomo said during the keynote address of the Democratic Party’s 1984 presidential nominating convention.
The elder Cuomo concluded his remarks by referring to the United States as “this great nation.”
America’s status as a unique and great nation was a theme Mario Cuomo often emphasized. In a separate speech he delivered at the University of Notre Dame in September 1984, then-Gov. Mario Cuomo noted the desire of Americans of all faiths to “make our already great democracy even stronger than it is.”
In 1992, when he introduced then-Gov. Bill Clinton as the Democratic nominee for the presidency, Mario Cuomo once again described the United States as a great nation.
“Remember, we became a great nation by making things and selling them to others for their marks and their yens,” he said.
Using language about foreign trade that could well be spoken by Trump today, the elder Cuomo lamented America’s transformation from an exporter to a net importer: “In no time at all, in no time at all, we have gone from the greatest seller nation, the greatest lender nation, the greatest creditor nation to, today, the world’s largest buyer, the world’s largest borrower and the world’s largest debtor nation.”
Andrew Cuomo, whose remarks on Wednesday were directly at odds with the much-lauded words of his father, who was regularly praised as a gifted orator, did not explain why he thinks his father was wrong about America.