For a fleeting moment, Andrew Cuomo was the future of Democratic politics.
Cuomo wants desperately to get back in public life. He is using his campaign account, still packed with more than $10 million, to blast out TV ads proclaiming his vindication regarding the sexual harassment and assault allegations that forced him to resign last year. Cuomo thinks he’s in the clear simply because prosecutors declined to indict him — never mind that predatory, abusive behavior doesn’t have to violate the letter of the law.
On Sunday, Cuomo stopped by a church in Brooklyn to repeat his already stale lines, railing against the alleged “cancel culture” that drove him from office. “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 proclaimed.
Cuomo wants to be governor again, or maybe state attorney general, but petitioning to reach the ballot is already underway. In matchups against incumbents Kathy Hochul or Letitia James, he’d surely lose. James’s decision to not run against Hochul for governor short-circuited a Cuomo comeback that, late last year, still had some plausibility. In a crowded, open Democratic primary for attorney general, Cuomo would have been a credible candidate.
Shut out from that lane, Cuomo still hopes there is enough 2020 nostalgia to buoy him. He prays for a mass uprising of MSNBC- and CNN-addicted liberals who still think combating a pandemic has something to do with going on TV. These people exist, but there aren’t enough of them to save a political career. Just as there’s no incentive for network executives to hire Chris Cuomo again, voters have no compelling reason to demand Cuomo returns to public life.
The power elite doesn’t need Cuomo either. Hochul has banked more than $20 million from the same real estate developers and financiers who backed Cuomo for years. Hochul is more genial and willing, at times, to placate the Left, so there’s no longing in any part of the political establishment for a Cuomo redux.
The open secret of Cuomo’s eleven years in power is that he was, often, a lousy governor.
He failed to contain the initial spread of COVID, dithering until it was too late, and engineered an egregious cover-up of deaths in nursing homes, which helped lead to his downfall. He presided over great corruption and waste, failing, among other things, to reform the MTA. The actual accomplishments he presided over, like a raised minimum wage or criminal justice reforms, generally happened in spite of him. He fought for an austerity agenda whenever he could summon the political will to do so and deliberately let the Republicans strangle the State Senate.
Beyond the fact that Cuomo is so unrepentant for his behavior, what makes his attempted comeback dubious is his lack of ideas. Cuomo has nothing to offer and nothing to say. He has no genius strategy for helping Democrats avoid a midterm wipeout — he sabotaged Democrats in his own state and won elections comfortably with the sort of fundraising practices that are forbidden in Congress. He cannot speak credibly on governing or election reform because New York, for much of his tenure, had some of the worst voter laws in America. Cuomo was a master at consolidating power for himself, and occasionally he did wield it for better ends. More often than not, though, he simply acted on petty grievances and stymied real change.
If Cuomo cared about reentering the political arena in a genuine way, he would offer policy prescriptions that others could carry forward. But Cuomo was never a thinker, never an intellect. He rose to prominence because his father was governor for twelve years. The family name made him what he was. His comeback bid now is transparently devoid of purpose beyond ego. A few people will always believe in Cuomo. To these hangers-on and die-hards he can turn, again and again, for sustenance.
The wider world, thankfully, has moved on. There’s no place for him now, and hopefully there never will be.