Given the prospect of months of damaging revelations from the various inquiries into Cuomo, Democrats would probably be better off jettisoning him now over the sexual harassment charges. (As I was finishing this column, another woman, albeit one who didn’t work for him, accused the governor of making an unwanted advance at a wedding). But I wouldn’t expect a stampede away from him yet, for two reasons. First, despite the nursing home scandal, and the fact that New York’s vaccination rate is worse than Florida or Arizona’s, the TV-nurtured myth of Cuomo’s take-charge competence still prevails.
A recent Morning Consult poll, taken after reports of the nursing home deaths but before last week’s sexual harassment allegations, showed that 57 percent of New York voters, and 81 percent of Democrats, still approved of him. The governor is loathed by much of New York’s progressive political class, many of whom were astonished to see him transformed into a Resistance hero last year. But there’s little sign yet that his constituents have abandoned him.
Meanwhile, many Democrats are sick of holding themselves to a set of standards that Republicans feel no need to try to meet. Twitter is full of people demanding that the party not “Franken” Cuomo, and pointing out that Republicans are taking no steps to investigate alleged sexual harassers in their own ranks, including the freshman congressman Madison Cawthorn. At a certain point, making sacrifices to demonstrate virtue, in the face of an opposition that has none, makes a lot of Democrats feel like suckers.
But eventually the results of the investigation are going to come out, and unless they show that Cuomo is innocent of behavior he himself seemed to admit, Democrats will have to pick a side. The legislature may soon revoke the emergency powers Cuomo was granted at the start of the pandemic, but I’m skeptical that even proof that Bennett is telling the truth will be enough to create a groundswell to drive him from office.
Gillibrand’s example is instructive. For plenty of people, it’s still easier to forgive a man for sexually harassing someone than it is to forgive a woman for ending an admired man’s career. Cuomo has been seriously weakened. But he’ll have to be weaker still before derailing the life of a young woman is enough to dethrone him.
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