Loathe as I am to admit it, I have found Gov. Andrew Cuomo mildly comforting lately. If you’re wondering if a part of me is dying outside as a result of writing that sentence, yes, you should pour a lil’ out for me right now. (Pour it out in your mouth, though; I don’t advise wasting a drop of alcohol in this economy.) Believe me, I acknowledge my tolerance with the same level of excitement one has when entering the dentist's office bright and early on a Monday morning to have their wisdom teeth removed with pliers but without Novocaine. Cuomo, of all people.
But nothing serves as a better testament to the generally fucked state of things than the fact that even folks I’m used to criticizing seem like rays of salvation — and all they have to do is exhibit baseline competence and the barest signs of human decency.
For me, like many others, the shift from “Cuomo ain’t shit” to “Cuomo ain’t shit, but damn, do I like this jackass right now” began in late March with his daily press conferences about New York’s response to the pandemic. These have consistently managed to come across as sane, aware of the severity of the crisis at hand, and conscious of the fact that a lot of folks could die and — wait for it — that that would be really bad. Juxtapose those with President Donald Trump’s press conferences, de facto campaign ads intermittently featuring Vice President Mike Pence, a liar and homophobe with a proven track record for accelerating health crises, and various other sycophants. (Yes, there’s Dr. Anthony Fauci, who I continue to lift in prayer, but he’s often drowned out by Trump, who spends hours in press conferences about pandemics talking about ratings and the gratitude we all should have toward him.)
We can, and should, want better than politicians like Joe Biden. But the answer isn’t Andrew Cuomo.
So on March 23, when Rachel Maddow declared Cuomo the president of the coronavirus as a result of his taking a serious matter seriously, I got it.
On the other hand, some of you need to get a hold of yourselves. Specifically, those of you who think that being president of the coronavirus means he should be president of everything. Starting right around the same time as Maddow’s pronouncement, pundits and simply those demoralized by the state of the Democratic party have made public calls to anoint Cuomo the Democratic nominee. Sure, some of this is just the musings of bored political columnists, but there has been an actual effort to move his name into contention for vice president.
Look. I don’t find Joe Biden exciting either. But Trump is going to head into November presiding over an economy that could face unprecedented unemployment rates as high as 30%. And much of that will be directly attributable to his gross mishandling of a pandemic in which tens of thousands of Americans have already died. I don’t question the White electorate’s insatiable appetite for the preservation of its current imbalanced structures, but I do reckon at the rate we’re going, so as long as Biden keeps his eyes open, he may be able to pull this off.
We can, and should, want better than politicians like Biden. But the answer isn’t Andrew Cuomo.
Yes, we can find Cuomo comforting at a time like this. Hell, I even now enjoy Cuomo’s lil’ cutesy interviews with his brother, CNN prime-time anchor Chris Cuomo. For me, it was day 25, or maybe day 9,657 — who can tell anymore? — that I started missing cursing out my brother in person.
We’ve all seen this movie before, and it’s called Post-9/11 Rudy Giuliani. Once upon a time, the rest of the country decided that the man who had divorced his second wife via press conference was now “America’s Mayor,” gassing him up until he believed it. Then came the dreams of being senator, and then president, and then — worst of all — personal lawyer to the president.
Cuomo may not be as awful a politician as Giuliani, but “better than abysmal” is not the person to bet on. So let’s examine who we are dealing with in totality, not the specks we are temporarily enjoying under trauma.
As Alex Shepherd and Clio Chang wrote for The New Republic in 2017, “At a time when New York should be leading the progressive charge against a Republican-controlled federal government, it is members of the Democratic Party who are holding the state back.” And the Democrat holding the reins tightest has been Cuomo. Even now, as Cuomo is praised in chyrons and major newspaper headlines, the stories away from the press conference stage look more like “Andrew Cuomo Uses Budget To Cut Medicaid, Settle Political Scores.” In the middle of a pandemic, a panel he appointed voted to slash hospital budgets. So don’t confuse managerial competence for commitment to giving New Yorkers a safety net.
Then there’s andstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-state/how-new-york-uses-prison-labor.html">his use of prison labor; state inmates are making hand sanitizer and digging for graves for what, pennies? Also look into the details of the coronavirus’s impact on those incarcerated — and how those horrific failures will ultimately impact the general population.
Despite the reality, I doubt the fanfare around Cuomo will fade anytime soon. I’ll still watch the press conferences; I may even continue clicking on links of him and his brother. It doesn’t make me a fan of Cuomo — it makes me a fan of comfort. And sometimes the need for hope runs so deep I can make myself forget who’s giving it.