“I am not part of the political club.”
Cuomo, New York’s governor, said on Friday he would not resign. He has been steadfast as six different women accuse him of sexual harassment and the FBI investigates his state’s counting of nursing home deaths during the coronavirus pandemic. Most of his own party has turned against him. A normal politician, facing down twin scandals, would decide to call it quits.
But Cuomo, who has been governor for more than a decade, is not normal. He shares a few political genes with Trump, who came out of the same city and same borough and was reared, ultimately, with the same entitlement. Trump’s father, Fred, was one of New York’s most powerful real estate developers while Cuomo’s father, Mario, governed the state for 12 years.
Cuomos and Trumps fight alike: to the very end, with no regard for the facts, the truth, or the feelings of those around them. On Friday, almost all of New York’s congressional delegation called for Cuomo to step down and allow the lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, to negotiate an enormous and critical state budget. They joined the Democrats in the New York State Senate, who have called for Cuomo to resign, and many members of the State Assembly. The Assembly, at last, has opened an impeachment inquiry.
Cuomo astoundingly invoked “cancel culture” on Friday, as if he were addressing a rousing crowd at CPAC. It is not a culture of cancellation that is doing Cuomo in: It’s a culture that recognizes his approach to governing has been a failure, and people are suffering because of it.
The open secret of Albany is thankfully no longer secret to anyone. Cuomo presided over a predatory and sadistic work environment, where fealty to the cause of Cuomo was all that mattered when the sun went down.
Cuomo is a liar because he is the political club. He is the most powerful governor since Nelson Rockefeller, a Democrat who fundraises from the richest and most consequential real estate developers and financiers in the state, who became a Cabinet secretary in Bill Clinton’s administration because his father was New York’s longtime governor. If Cuomo is not part of the political club, one simply does not exist. It is a dark, lightless void in the galaxy somewhere.
In Cuomo’s world, there were only binaries: you were with him or against him. Reality could always be rewritten on his terms—one day, he controls the subways in New York, another day he does not—and the politicians and apparatchiks of the Democratic Party would nod along, glad only to be spared his legendary wrath.
Cuomo has, remarkably, not ruled out running again, for that fourth term he has craved since his own father, Mario, failed to win one in 1994. Instead of winding down his political career, as any other politician in his position would, he is maniacally forging on—and hoping, just like the old days, to break his opposition along the way.
It’s worth remembering the sexual harassment allegations, alone, aren’t what is driving the calls for Cuomo’s ouster. He is under federal investigation for obscuring the coronavirus death toll in nursing homes. His Department of Health invented nonsensical criteria for counting these deaths—a nursing home resident who died in a hospital was excluded from the tally—that allowed Cuomo to declare, as he was writing his pandemic memoir, that the virus hadn’t impacted these healthcare facilities much at all.
Until now, Cuomo could get away with it. Reality was too many steps behind. The public was too enthralled with him or, more likely, wasn’t paying attention much at all. Cuomo’s closest aide, Joe Percoco, was sent to federal prison two years ago on corruption charges. Another close ally, Alain Kaloyeros, went to prison in a bid-rigging scheme. Cuomo shut down an anti-corruption commission he created once it became clear it was going to do its job and investigate the executive branch.
Cuomo is right, in one sense. He is entitled to due process. The State Attorney General will at some point release a report into the allegations, which seem credible. But in Cuomo’s mind, this is all a distraction from the glory of his rescue of New York during the pandemic. Soon, the clouds will clear and the largest cable TV networks in America will welcome him again, their hero returned from a brief hiatus. The show will go on.
Cuomo will be the last person to realize this is not his future. His arrogance is in full bloom, the ur-Cuomo unleashed, daring the legislature to impeach and convict him. If he pushes them much further, they will. Because it’s not just the allegations anymore. It’s the nursing home deaths, the nearly 50,000 dead from coronavirus, and the state mired in its rotten political culture.
Cuomo created all of it. Like Trump, he hopes to deny reality enough to gin up his fan base of resistance liberals and make them despise the press and political leaders who dare to challenge him. He will go down a martyr. He knows of no other way.