His own daily televised coronavirus briefings became such an addiction — and to so many a balm — that the governor was awarded an Emmy, the chairman of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences explaining that, “People around the world tuned in to find out what was going on, and New York tough became a symbol of the determination to fight back.”
Gritty paternalism was the political brand Mr. Cuomo had been building his whole career, an image shrewdly forged in a blend of aggressive masculinity and performed compassion. Now he’d reached the apex. Even during Hurricane Sandy, polling put him ahead of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in terms of who was more successfully handling recovery. Mr. Cuomo was visible always in his bomber jacket, on site, in flooded tunnels, holding flash lights, looking as though he was going to come over and muck out your basement and then replace the sheet rock. By contrast, Mr. Bloomberg was often behind a podium in an elegant sweater — the cool architect to the governor’s robust contractor.
The impression of competence was intoxicating enough to leave supporters overlooking a lot. While Mr. Cuomo was running for a second term, in 2014, he announced that he was disbanding the Moreland Commission, an investigative unit that he had established to much fanfare not long before, tasked with looking into the avalanche of corruption that characterized Albany. The group had a promising list of targets, including a lawmaker who was thought to have used campaign funds to pay his girlfriend’s bills at a tanning salon. Voters ultimately cared very little. Mr. Cuomo secured the Democratic nomination, regardless, defeating Zephyr Teachout, a progressive law professor and a woman, who was running on an anti-corruption platform.
Understand the Scandals Challenging Gov. Cuomo’s Leadership
It hardly bears remarking that women lose out to our collective infatuation with proxy father figures nearly every time. New York City is about to elect a mayor, Eric Adams, who has promised to rebuild the house, to restore the order and keep the outlaws in line, the way only a patriarch believes he can. Kathryn Garcia’s steely managerial competence ultimately could not compete with this posture of determined authority.
Until now, little has gotten in the way of the governor’s assertions of power. Many of Mr. Cuomo’s victims were afraid to come forward out of fear of retaliation. Their boss was a fan of both “banter” and retribution. “I am the same person in public as I am in private,” the governor said this week, a statement that can seem like the problem more than the exoneration, because in public Mr. Cuomo can be combative and domineering, something New Yorkers have closely observed over the course of eight years as he has regularly submitted Mayor Bill de Blasio to pulverization in his mortar and pestle.