Andrew Cuomo is having a moment. But not a very good one.
The New York governor is currently embroiled in several scandals, most notably multiple former aides accusing him of sexual harassment. With two more women coming forward over the weekend, Cuomo’s number of accusers is up to five. The trouble doesn’t stop there, though. Cuomo also faces potential investigation for having his aides rewrite a report to conceal the number of nursing home deaths in New York. The New York Times reported late last week that, as many had suspected, Cuomo’s office “began concealing the [nursing home death] numbers months earlier” than previously stated. This all comes on the heels of New York Assemblyman Ron Kim blowing the whistle on Cuomo, saying the governor pressured him to issue a statement and threatened to “destroy” Kim if he didn’t help cover up the scandal.
Predictably, more and more politicians are calling for Cuomo’s resignation, but speaking to the media last week, the governor said he had no intention of quitting. Still, it’s quite the fall for Cuomo, who enjoyed heaping praise from media types for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York. He won an Emmy and published a book off his media darling status, and was even hypothetically floated as a Joe Biden replacement last spring. That all seems even more absurd now than it did then, especially for those who have paid any kind of attention to Cuomo’s tenure—he’s been a domineering political bully for years and has long had a particular penchant for bad decisions. Now, with his rotten fruit coming to bear, Cuomo’s options are relatively limited.
Cuomo’s said he won’t resign, but this is the most obvious option on the table. It’s also the most just. His record was brutal before COVID-19, but the pandemic added several resignation-worthy bullet points to his resume, including using prison labor to “make” hand sanitizer while completely ignoring the virus’ spread in New York prisons. A study published last May found that if Cuomo had moved to shut down the state and city just a week earlier it would’ve saved roughly 17,500 lives.
The Ralph Northam Model
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam found himself in a somewhat similar position in 2019, when an old yearbook photo surfaced showing him in blackface. It seemed like an unrecoverable scandal, but Northam weathered the storm by apologizing for his actions, staying out of the spotlight, and advocating popular policies like marijuana legalization. (It also helped that several other prominent Virginia politicians faced scandals at roughly the same time). Cuomo might not be able to replicate Northam, though, and not just for lack of other distracting political scandals—he’s a classic newshound who needs the spotlight and credit for whatever is going on in his state. Cuomo would almost certainly rather micromanage his own downfall than pivot out of the public eye and start pushing for legislation people actually want. That’s not who he is, but it would almost certainly get him through this.
Don’t Seek Re-election
This option splits the difference between resigning and laying low. Cuomo’s current term ends in 2022 anyway. Announcing he wouldn’t seek re-election for a fourth could serve as a sop to those who want him gone while also allowing him to finish his time as governor with whatever semblance of dignity he has left. It would also give him a year to try winning back some goodwill before inevitably throwing his hat in the ring for the White House in 2024.
Continue Denying & Bluster Through
Cuomo got to where he is through excessive bluster and bullying (and being the former governor’s son). Why switch up the formula now? He’s drawn comparisons to Donald Trump, and for good reason. Cuomo could take a page out of Trump’s playbook and simply deny to the hilt even as sexual harassment allegations and corruption scandals continue piling up. He’ll lose some credibility with the libs who fawned over him for months, but if it allows him to keep his job and stay relevant, it won’t matter. Based on Cuomo’s personality and governing style, this has to be the most likely route for him.
None of these options are static, though—Cuomo doesn’t get to press a button and choose which scenario suits him best. His political future will be determined by ever-changing public sentiment, and right now he’s the focal point of scrutiny. Cuomo would ultimately be fine if he were forced to leave the governorship. In fact, he’d probably find a way to hang around the political sphere, likely as a cable news analyst, until he decides to make a run for president. Then again, if several more women come forward or people suddenly start caring about some of the other heinous things he’s done as New York’s governor, he could be gone for good. Cable news hosts and Democratic Party bosses loved him as a foil to Trump, but now that Trump is gone, Cuomo’s usefulness has all but dried up.