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Andrew Cuomo Has Nothing to Offer Anyone
A comeback attempt few asked for has begun
Andrew Cuomo hangs like a stale fart in the air, the scent pungent enough to turn heads. Where did it come from? Why is it here? Are there more on the way?
Likely, yes. On Sunday, Cuomo, the disgraced former governor of New York, stopped by a church in Brooklyn. He went there after he began hitting the airwaves with a TV ad proclaiming vindication from a wide array of sexual harassment and assault allegations because he never faced criminal charges. “Contrary to what my political opponents would have you believe, nothing I did violated the law or the regulation,” he said at the church. “But the political sharks in Albany smelled blood.”
Once again blaming “cancel culture” for his downfall, he added: “If you want to cancel something, cancel federal gridlock, cancel the incompetence, cancel the infighting, cancel crime, cancel homelessness, cancel education inequality, cancel poverty, cancel racism, be outraged but be outraged at what really matters and what really matters to you.”
Cuomo wants back in public life. He probably wants to be governor again or at least attorney general. With petitioning underway, he’ll be too late for any of the races this year. Not that it would matter much, either way. In matchups against incumbents Kathy Hochul or Letitia James, he’d lose. James’ decision to not run against Hochul for governor short-circuited a comeback that, late last year, had some plausibility. In a crowded, open Democratic primary for attorney general, Cuomo would have been a credible candidate with nearly $20 million in the bank.
Cuomo conflates harassment and abuse with criminality. A boss can engage in destructive and predatory behavior without violating the letter of the law. Cuomo hopes there is enough 2020 nostalgia to carry him through, a mass uprising of MSNBC and CNN-addled liberals who still think combating a pandemic has something to do with going on TV a lot. There are certainly enough of these people to pack a high school auditorium. Winning a statewide election is another matter entirely.
The reality for Cuomo is that he has nothing to offer New York State. He has no new ideas. He is not needed to govern or even opine. He is a person out for himself, now and always, and redemption for him is mostly about trying and failing to rewrite what will be the first line of his New York Times obituary. The Cuomo hangers-on will forever believe in Cuomo. The rest of the world, political and otherwise, has moved on.
Kathy Hochul can do what Cuomo did. She can raise enormous amounts of money from real estate developers and Wall Street elites. She can employ Cuomo’s budget director. She can propose infrastructure projects—hers have much more merit—and twist arms in the state capital. The secret of Cuomo’s 11 years in power is that he wasn’t a very good governor. He failed miserably to contain the initial spread of Covid, dithering until it was too late. He engineered an egregious cover-up of deaths in nursing homes. He presided over political corruption and immense waste, failing to reform the MTA while pursuing costly, car-centric infrastructure upgrades. Many of his tangible accomplishments, like a raised minimum wage or criminal justice reforms, were forced upon him by legislators and various outside actors. He micro-managed the state to an absurd degree and fought for an austerity agenda whenever he could summon the political will to do so. He let the Republicans strangle the State Senate. For most of his tenure, New York’s voter laws were worse than those in former Jim Crow states and he permitted catastrophic cronyism and inefficiency at the Board of Elections.
At the bare minimum, Hochul can be as good a governor as Cuomo. It won’t take much effort. And with slightly more ambition—and assuming she wins re-election—she can surpass him. She is competent and she is not a political sociopath. The left will need to apply pressure on a host of issues, but it can be done.
It’s notable and not surprising the Cuomo comeback tour has not led with any fresh policies. Cuomo is not a visionary. Cuomo is not a thinker. He is an enforcer and brutalist who rose as far as he did because his father was governor of New York for 12 years. In another reality, he is still towing cars off Grand Central Parkway and maybe he’s good at it. Maybe he’s content.
In the end, Cuomo canceled himself. He was debased and arrogant and reckless enough to convince an otherwise pliant State Assembly to contemplate impeaching him and an emboldened State Senate to rip him from office. That is his legacy and it won’t change.