Greek traditions, the historian Mary Beard has noted, often linked the culmination and fall of tyranny with sexual crimes. What will history make of the reign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who in casting himself as a ruler of classical stature fully embraces imperiousness as his modus operandi? One year since his popular daily pandemic briefings began, allegations of sexual harassment and covering up a report on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes have put the third-term governor in an unfamiliar position. The state assembly has begun an impeachment investigation. New York State’s attorney general has launched her own probe. And many fellow Democrats, at both the state and national levels, have called for him to resign.
The predominant reaction within New York political circles? It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Cuomo has deployed thuggishness so flagrantly for so long that, according to one observer, he has no real friends and no base of support. The prevailing prediction in those same circles? He’s not going anywhere. Indeed, with every day that Cuomo resists calls to step down, it grows more likely that he’ll remain in office through the end of his term. Investigations could actually buy him time, and even if they do uncover wrongdoing, it may still be hard to remove him. Impeachment is a complicated process in New York—“a real schlep,” in the words of one local journalist. And when push comes to shove, fear may outweigh indignation when it comes time to impeach. Even friendless, Cuomo wields real power.