After a damning investigation and months of reporting, Andrew Cuomo, who announced his two-week notice on Tuesday, has been thoroughly disgraced. Eleven women have credibly accused him of sexual harassment, and he faces multiple criminal investigations into his conduct. Nevertheless, Cuomo retains some supporters, the last loyalists in a once-thriving fan club.
Cole, I should note, is Cuomo’s brother-in-law. But there are plenty of other, less prominent supporters, who form an active little beehive on Twitter. If that’s surprising, recall the stan culture that once enfolded Cuomo. As the pandemic crested in New York, his regular press briefings attracted a national audience, and the governor built an unexpectedly enthusiastic, sometimes worshipful fan base. Comedian Randy Rainbow dubbed himself a “Cuomosexual” in a Youtube video that has been viewed over 2 million frightening times.
Like the namesake, the Cuomosexual now faces a reckoning. On Instagram, the fashion brand Lingua Franca announced that it would update its “Cuomosexual” and “Cuomo for President” sweaters for anyone who asks. The former sold for $400: an expensive embarrassment.
The Cuomosexual always induced a state of despair in me. While the governor performed competence on TV, he was making some questionable decisions offscreen. In March, he ordered the state’s nursing homes to accept patients with confirmed or suspected COVID diagnoses, a directive that potentially placed the vulnerable elderly at risk of illness and death. Like everyone else, I only learned much later that his administration had undercounted some nursing-home deaths; that his aides had even rewritten a Health Department report on the subject. Once it was out, however, the news shouldn’t have surprised anyone who knows anything about Andrew Cuomo.
There were a few brief bright moments in Cuomo’s tenure, like his decision to sign marriage equality into law. But there was a darkness to Cuomo, too, and it was never that well hidden. The governor had a reputation for verbal abuse and, more substantively, for stymying political progress. MTA dysfunction is one thing: Cuomo, Politico reported, was also involved with the formation of the Independent Democratic Conference, which broke away from the party majority in 2011. “The governor’s interest, say knowledgeable sources, was ensuring that Republicans had control over the agenda in the Senate, so that he wouldn’t be handing over power to New York City Democrats,” Politico continued. Who knows what could’ve passed in Albany while the IDC held up the party’s agenda, all with Cuomo’s imprimatur.
Cuomo wasn’t a very good governor, at least not by progressive standards, and evidence suggests he isn’t a good person, either. His downfall is thus a lesson for the Cuomosexual, or for anyone who’s tweeted “slay, queen” about Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi within the last five years. There can be good reasons to admire a politician’s life or career. But temper that admiration with caution. Politicians are just people, perhaps even more flawed than the rest of us, and power, once achieved, comes with its own obligations. Politicians owe something to us, in ways that other celebrities do not, and democracy only functions when we hold them accountable. The demise of Cuomo ought to be the end not just of the Cuomosexual, but of the benighted political stan culture that produced the very concept. Grow up and put the sweaters away: Politicians are a means to an end. They exist to be replaced when they are unethical or no longer useful to progress. There are fights to win, and no time to waste.