A Cuomo paradox: The worse his polling gets, the stronger the impulse I feel for him to hang on and avoid impeachment so that he can get obliterated by voters next year. That’s the sort of humiliation he deserves, repudiation by the people. Let the remnants of the “Cuomosexual” cult sit in the ashes and cry over it.
But that impulse is foolish since memories are short. If he hangs on this year, there’s no guarantee he won’t rebound next year and navigate his way to a fourth term. And, as a matter of basic political reality, the worse his polling gets the higher the odds of impeachment become. There must be a few Democratic state senators who are still on the fence about whether to vote to remove him that’ll be ready to hop off when they hear the new Quinnipiac numbers.
Three days ago, in a snap poll taken after the AG report came out, 59 percent thought he should resign and the same share thought he should be impeached if he refused. He’s lost more ground since then on both questions. His job approval is now sitting at a breezy 28/63 and it’s only that high because Democrats still very narrowly support him, 47/44. How that squares with the Democratic numbers in the questions above escapes me. Some small but meaningful share of his own base thinks Cuomo’s doing a good job … and also thinks he should be removed from office?
And maybe not just that. Quinnipiac also asked New Yorkers if they thought Cuomo should be charged with a crime based on the findings in the Attorney General’s report. Verdict:
I want to interview the “he’s doing a good job but he should also be in prison” wing of New York’s Democratic base.
It’s hard to believe we’d see Democratic voters quite so sour on Cuomo this suddenly without the encouragement of national party leaders like Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer, all of whom quickly called on him to resign after Letitia James’s report was issued. They created a “permission structure” for the rank-and-file in their own party to say “Cuomo must go”; Republican leaders refused to do the same with Trump, which explains why Cuomo’s at serious risk of being removed from office while Trump never was. On the other hand, the Democratic Party is much more of a traditional party than the GOP currently is in the sense that most Democratic voters broadly align with their party’s establishment politically. (More than they align with AOC, at least.) That’s not true among Republicans. The Senate leadership and to some degree even the House leadership are artifacts of the pre-Trump Republican consensus. If Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, John Thune, John Cornyn, etc, all called on Ron DeSantis to resign over some scandal, the base wouldn’t follow them. They’d despise them for stabbing a populist hero in the back at a moment when he’s under siege from liberals.
Among Democrats, the leadership still maintains influence over the base. Among Republicans, the only leader who matters is Trump.
Still, despite Biden, Pelosi, Schumer and dozens of other Dems pushing for Cuomo’s ouster, the numbers above aren’t lopsided against him within his party. He could claw back support from Democratic voters over time, especially with his team working hard to downplay the allegations against him. “This is the first sex scandal in history in which there wasn’t any sex,” one Cuomo adviser to New York magazine. “I am sorry that all of these women felt awkward, and felt like something was going to happen, but nothing actually did. So let’s talk about what we are actually talking about here.” Yeah, let’s: It’s not a “sex scandal,” for starters, it’s a harassment/assault scandal. The objection to Cuomo isn’t that he was sleeping with his aides, it’s that he made his workplace toxic for the women around him.
And beyond the sleazy elements of his behavior, there’s the deep weirdness of it, to borrow Peggy Noonan’s phrase. Cuomo’s always been a boor and a bully, and the nursing-home scandal proved him to be corrupt. But the sexual-harassment scandal shows that he’s also a bit nutty, officially giving him every last quality one shouldn’t want in a leader:
He ordered one aide to memorize the lyrics to “Danny Boy.” She testified he “would pop out” of his office and ask her to start singing. A footnote says it was not the only time the governor asked her to sing. The aide found herself writing to a former staffer, “He just asked me to sing Bohemian Rhapsody so. We aren’t far off from a bedtime story.” He asked her to do push-ups in front of him, and asked what people were saying about the size of his hands. According to the report the aide testified that “she understood the Governor was attempting to get her to say something about the size of his genitals.” Another aide testified that, in complaining to staff that a speech was disappointing, the Governor said something to the effect of “You need to give me some catchy one-liners. Come up with a line like, ‘you’re having sex without the orgasm.’ ”
Mr. Cuomo’s office played a kind of berserk hardball. When news of the sexual-harassment charges broke this March, the governor’s chief of staff asked the state “vaccine czar” to call Democratic county executives and find out if they stood with the governor. The czar was understood to be in charge of vaccine availability and the location of vaccine sites. Demand for vaccines was exceeding supply. The czar called around. One Democratic county executive understood the call to contain an implicit threat regarding vaccine access. He described himself as “stunned” and unsettled by the call.
You read all this and think: The governor is a letch, a creep, a dirty old man. But also a nut—a high-functioning one, a politically talented one, but a nut. Only a nut would do these things, and only a nut would think he wouldn’t be found out.
He’s a nut. New Yorkers hopefully see it now, enough to give the state legislature the confidence it needs that impeachment and removal won’t carry political repercussions — if they move quickly. Which they should. Cuomo must go.