It has been very hard to miss New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over the last several weeks of the pandemic, for several excellent reasons.
The packed New York City area quickly and frighteningly has become one of the centers of the global spread of COVID-19. There are many positive things to be said for urban density: It makes it easier to house people in high-rises; it makes it easier to collectivize people in theory; it makes it easier to provide greener alternatives to traditional transportation; and so on. But it also means one has a population that can become highly vulnerable to infectious disease as well as one that will blamelessly find social distancing and isolation more difficult than we do, say, in Southwest Colorado.
Cuomo is trying to manage an epic crisis in concentrated form. We should pray for his success if we are inclined to pray. New York has given so much good to the world. But the attention Cuomo is getting now is not precisely prayerful.
“An entire nation of desperate libs and media figures is throwing themselves at the New York governor in an embarrassing way,” said Krystal Ball, the pro-Sanders, socialist newscaster for The Hill, Monday.
“His press briefings send lusty journalists into paroxysms of joy and moaning relief,” Ball continued – but, she went on to say, Cuomo is actually terrible, because he “has blocked pro-worker policies in solid-blue New York,” has not supported Medicare for All, has not spent more on education and has not done enough for the homeless.
For most of Trump’s presidency, rank-and-file Democrats claimed Trump’s authoritarian rhetoric troubled them, Ball said. “But now? Now they just want their own authoritarian” and are “reduced to begging Andrew Cuomo to ‘Govern me, Daddy.’”
Ball is right to point to Cuomo’s own, almost legendary vindictiveness – “his maniacally controlling behavior, his dark zeal to muscle past people and obstacles to get his way,” as Maureen Dowd put it in a mostly flattering New York Times column about him Friday. At times, he has seemed to find his highest calling in maintaining petty feuds with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, another Democrat. And the darkness is in part why he is making the hearts of establishment Democrats beat faster now.
But it is also because Cuomo is making Joe Biden – remember him? – look lackluster by comparison. “I see Cuomo as the Democratic nominee this year. If we could switch Biden out for him, that’s the winner,” Bill Maher told Dowd. “He’s unlikable, which I really like.”
It is too soon to know how the pandemic will affect the 2020 election, but just look at where we left the majority of the party’s primary voters and insiders, its establishment, at the beginning of March: In order to thwart Sanders, they decided to do the supposedly adult thing and swallow any reservations about Biden’s lack of vigor and, at times, coherence. Biden might not be the most dynamic or effective campaigner, but he seems like mostly a decent man, a familiar and comforting figure who will defend the status quo ante. It was a never-Trump move.
And here are establishment Democrats a month later, fantasizing about nominating Cuomo on the second ballot of a convention that is supposed to be held in Milwaukee in the middle of August – all but throwing over their betrothed, who was MIA for much of March, for the younger, more energetic and articulate governor who can be seen daily at the helm in a polo shirt, the equivalent of gubernatorial foul weather gear – and it is hard to see how any of this augurs well for Biden or them come November.