When Andrew Cuomo was going to resign, I didn’t quite believe it. I was at home, in the hot apartment I share with my fiancé, listening to the live feed from the New York State website while I perused Twitter and wondered about how much of my day Cuomo was going to waste. I had been through this before; we all had. Cuomo would fulminate about the unfairness of the report, the attacks on his character, the cancel culture undoing his righteous Baby Boomer existence. His live address was the first to the public since Attorney General Letitia James last Tuesday released her report into Cuomo’s sexual harassment of current and former staffers, including a state trooper. The James report was as damning as many of us anticipated and virtually the entire political class, from Joe Biden on down, had called for Cuomo’s resignation.
In the meantime, Cuomo’s lawyers, including the U.S. attorney who once investigated Chris Christie for Bridgegate, blustered on, complaining that one of the investigators James had deputized, Joon Kim, had worked under Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney who probed the Cuomo administration and successfully convicted Joe Percoco, Cuomo’s right-hand man, on bribery charges. So it goes. When Cuomo began to speak yesterday, my mind wandered away, ever so slightly. It was my job to listen, but listen to what? Cuomo wasn’t resigning. He was a pugilist and a bully who backed down for no one, bereft of self-awareness. He didn’t resign in March. He didn’t resign last week. The Assembly said they would impeach but Cuomo was puffing his chest out, still. Impeach me. Like an old schoolyard dare. Carl Heastie, the round little quiet kid, wasn’t about to take a swipe at the alpha.
And then Cuomo talked. And talked. He wasn’t taking questions. He was telling us how wronged he was, sorry but not sorry, these generational misunderstandings. He just wanted diversity on his police detail! Women are diverse! Twitter isn’t real-life, et cetera. I had already tweeted Cuomo wasn’t resigning.
“I think that given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Cuomo said. “And, therefore, that’s what I’ll do because I work for you, and doing the right thing is doing the right thing for you.”
That was that. Cuomo was gone. Yesterday afternoon, I ended up writing four different stories on it for four different outlets. You can read my political obituary on Cuomo in the Nation, what this means for the Left in New York Magazine, how terrible Albany culture remains for the Atlantic, and more on the Cuomo downfall for the Village Voice. I wrote a book about Cuomo, as you know, so I have a lot to say. Given what I’ve written already, including my piece on Cuomo from Friday, I don’t want to repeat myself too much.
I think, in Cuomo’s mind, he believes he is not finished. His address set him up for martyrdom—these confused millenial women don’t understand my bad jokes!—and the over-50 crowd, the liberals devouring MSNBC and CNN and the myth of Cuomo the Covid conqueror, may pine for him again. Cuomo has almost $20 million in the bank. The Democratic primary is next June. He would be the most famous person running, by a long-shot. The Assembly can still impeach him and the Senate would convict, barring him from future office. They were ready to, as long as Cuomo didn’t resign. Now that he has, the guns may be placed back in their holsters. Heastie is only so daring.
Of course, the Cuomo comeback will seem most plausible to Cuomo. He does not understand, and probably never will, why he had so few friends in government. He perceives failures—the massive Covid death toll, the cover-up of nursing home deaths, the deep cuts to social services and public hospitals and CUNY, the inadequate subway system, the incompetent Board of Elections, the terrible campaign finance laws—as successes. New York was not a particularly well-run state. To Cuomo, it was the greatest.
Even if the elites in the Democratic Party and the influential interest groups believe it was, they are over Cuomo. He offers nothing to them now. Kathy Hochul, the new governor, will suffice. She has Cuomo’s centrist instincts and none of his vile impulses. She will not needlessly alienate. She will behave conventionally. Why would a real estate developer, a union leader, a Wall Street oligarch, or a party chair want Cuomo back in government? Next year, if there’s a competitive Democratic primary, they’ll have opportunities to seek out candidates who will do business with them.
Like many, I am surprised the end came so swiftly. When I set out to write a book about Cuomo late last year, I imagined him easily winning a fourth or even fifth term, surpassing men like Nelson Rockefeller and George Clinton. He was popular enough and able to spend tens of millions with ease, blasting away rivals. He was the unmovable force. Cuomo’s obituary is forever marred, as it should be. He earned this fate. He can live off his book advance money and fume in the shadows. New York is done with him.