As mourners gather to remember former New York Governor Mario Cuomo at his funeral today, WGBH Radio’s Rupa Shenoy reminds us of the vigor with which Cuomo championed the Roman Catholic liberal tradition, which for so long was integral to Massachusetts politics. 

Decades after Franklin Delano Roosevelt championed the merits of a “New Deal,” Cuomo echoed that call for social justice, infusing it with elements of his own Catholic faith. Cuomo excoriated Republican President Ronald Reagan for what he called a heartless policy of “Social Darwinism,” at the 1984 Democratic Convention. This led to unrealized calls that Cuomo himself run for president.


"There is despair, Mr President, in the faces that you don’t see. In the places that you don’t visit in your shining city. Mr President, you ought to know that this nation is more a tale of two cities than it is just a shining city on a hill,” he told the crowd. 


With such soaring rhetoric, Boston College political science professor Alan Wolfe says Cuomo embodied a waning strain of Catholic liberalism.


“Cuomo really blended Catholicism and liberalism, even more than Teddy Kennedy. He really was the last embodiment of that 50 year tradition in American politics.”


But Cuomo also set his own course apart from the church. The same year as his convention speech, Cuomo spoke at University of Notre Dame about his support of a women’s right to choose an abortion.


Wolfe says Cuomo’s urban attitude matched that of his New York constituents, and also of the people of Massachusetts.


“Cuomo could have been the Governor of Massachusetts, just as easily as he was the governor of New York,” Wolfe said.


Cuomo helped set the tone and direction of New England politics and civil spirit for years to come.