If you want to consider the morbid consequence of not holding a Democratic politician accountable, it’s not very much different from catastrophes of the Republican-enabled Trump presidency: deaths, deceit, and destruction. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo faked it, and kept faking it, and never made it. We increasingly see what happens with a do-nothing governor.
Cuomo’s pandemic response has languished and killed. Finally, state and national media are recognizing the abysmal failure of New York. There’s the second-highest rate of death per capita in the United States after New Jersey (yes, Cuomo, like Trump, bears enormous responsibility for not shutting down transportation hubs early enough). Then there’s the horrendously mistaken guidance to New Yorkers at every turn of the pandemic (yes, Cuomo, like Trump, compared COVID to the flu when that had already been disproven).
And now there’s the utterly disastrous vaccination regimen (yes, Cuomo, like Trump, has failed to fund a public health infrastructure for Americans, and Cuomo’s threats of penalties have actually trashed vaccines).
The governor of New York is a cautionary tale for fellow Democrats who won’t quickly hold President Biden’s feet to the fire for a pandemic turnaround, and those who wouldn’t scrutinize Biden’s judgment—decent as it may be—and advise him to do better and faster. Comprehensive relief will likely require busting the filibuster or legislating through reconciliation.
“There’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months,” Biden said last week. Yet his campaign told us for months that if the country was disciplined in heeding 100 days of nationally mandated mask wearing and social distancing, we could see a measure of improvement.
Biden’s above sentiment is correct if Americans refuse to change their behavior, and he’s right to level with them about that fact. Otherwise, this is an inauspicious beginning and cop-out of massive proportions. The strategy to underpromise is unrepresentative of a war-like posture. With the new COVID variants emerging, the virus will escape all but the most formidable control measures.
Yes, the Biden administration is moving fast, but perhaps not quickly or innovatively enough. Invoking the Defense Production Act is not enough. Biden needs to tell the American people explicitly how he is directing the vaccine-makers to produce and stock more. We need a VWA—Vaccination Works Administration—to ensure that safely ventilated sites across the country are operating around-the-clock for vaccine, mask, and sanitizer distribution to every American.
Along with each jab, every vaccine recipient should get the highest-grade medical mask. This will send the message that your vaccine is not the end of the line for public health restoration—we must press ahead with smart mitigation and protection. Biden needs to renew our faith that government can help us win this war.
Bottom line: Cuomo is a good example of what not to do—nothing bold, little helpful. From the outset, he imposed red tape on vaccines, disqualified immunocompromised folks who should've been eligible, and still hasn't clarified guidance almost two months into the vaccination deployment. The result has been a hellish rollout with vaccinators literally searching for potential recipients on sidewalks in the dead of night. Meanwhile, Cuomo takes no responsibility for the maladministration and threatens litigation, which will not save lives.
Here in New York, it’s time, at long last, to keep Cuomo honest in advance of his bid for a fourth term as governor. We need nothing short of a Lincoln Project-style viral drumbeat reiterating Cuomo's failures to protect New Yorkers and generate momentum for a viable primary opponent.
This will require a gut check and permission to oppose Cuomo, whether you're in New York City or suburban or rural communities, where there’s potential for an alliance of disenchanted New Yorkers—progressives and conservatives alike—who've had it with Cuomo… just as there will be a rising tide against Biden if he doesn’t get a hold of the virus.
Fair or not, after Republicans helped spread the virus around the country, President Biden and the Democratic House and Senate majorities will be judged on their ability to eradicate COVID. If progress is not visible, and the American people don’t get the sustained relief they need, Biden will be blamed, and Democrats ousted in 2022.