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Man of the People

September 22, 2014

Caesar was born and raised in the Sabura neighborhood of Rome, a short walk from the Forum. The area was an odd choice for the noble Julian clan. The district was a lower-class neighborhood known for its merchants, tradesmen, prostitutes and foreigners.  Caesar lived there for more than 30 years and he gained familiarity with the rough and tumble life on Roman streets that few of his upper-class peers could have known. His later populist policies may in fact be due to his surroundings and childhood friends as much as political opportunism. Whatever the reasons for his family’s long residence in grimy Subura, as opposed to the fashionable Palatine Hill region, it created in Caesar a unique individual – a patrician descendent of kings who knew intimately the lives and sorrows of common Romans.”  — Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman.

Andrew Cuomo, son of a lawyer, was born and raised in the Holliswood section of Queens. It was and is a mixed-race, working class neighborhood. He went to school there, and worked part-time at a garage pumping gas and doing basic maintenance and repairs on cars. Later, when his father became the governor of the state, he moved with his family into the state mansion in Albany. This was while Andrew was in college at Fordham University. Andrew lived at the mansion when school was out and throughout the time when he attended Albany Law School.  His main career experience has been in government. He has lived in Manhattan and Washington, D.C. He now lives in Mount Kisco in Westchester County.

Rob Astorino, son of a policeman, was born and raised in Thornwood in Westchester County. The community was and is overwhelming white and Catholic and working class. He went to public high school and then Fordham, where he studied communications. He started his career working as a radio sports reporter and producer. He also worked as an on-air TV personality on a Catholic TV network. He and his family now live in Mount Pleasant in Westchester County.

Howie Hawkins, son of a laborer, was born and raised in San Francisco. His mother died when he was 12 and father was often not around. He attended Dartmouth College, but did not graduate. He was in the Marine Corps, but was not deployed. He has worked all over the country as a carpenter, logger and construction worker. He also worked as an organizer for several political parties including the Socialist Party. He currently works in Syracuse as a UPS package unloader.

Who in our lineup has a greater claim to be a true man of the people?

On the face of it, one might conclude that it’s Mr. Hawkins. He’s certainly had more experience in the world of working people. But his long association with fringe political parties, as well as an almost nomadic existence for much of his life, make him quite an unusual person who doesn’t have clear ties to a specific community.

Mr. Cuomo was a Queens kid. That was a big part of his identity growing up. His life changed dramatically, however.  He became the scion of political dynasty and was also associated with another political dynasty through marriage to Kerry Kennedy. Today, even though he’s known to work on cars and spend time in the Adirondacks, it’s hard not to conclude he has a rather rarified existence as a governor of the state and as a resident of an upscale community in Westchester. He doesn’t appear to have kept close ties to Queens. Nor does he have much time to participate in community activities in Mount Kisco.

Mr. Astorino is the individual who has retained the closest ties to his roots. He lives not far from where he grew up. His day job of being a local elected official (county exec) requires him to stay in close touch with his community. In addition, he and his wife are involved in school functions and are active with the Catholic church.  While one might question Astorino’s familiarity with and affinity for rural people, urban minorities and others, he does appear to be the one who is most connected to typical suburban life.

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