We can learn a new lesson from the case of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who announced his resignation in a stunning historical moment on Aug. 10, 2021.
After all, he is not the first state’s governor to exit office in political and personal disgrace.
In fact, Cuomo is the second consecutive state leader to leave during a scandal of his own making. Remember hard-charging, tough-talking Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 amid a sexual scandal?
What is the lesson for us to grasp?
Maybe, just maybe, it is now the time for us all to recognize that New York State, as well as other domains, needs a new kind of political leader and campaigner. Enough of the blustery, bullying leader of old.
Hopefully, the state’s next crop of leaders, starting with the governor who will be elected next year, will see the light and adopt a different style of governing and dealing with people.
No More Macho Men (and Women)
Enough with the macho breed of leaders. This approach seems to be well past its prime. It makes you wonder why elected officials ever thought it was a good idea. As Andrew Cuomo shows, the more arrogant you act, the steeper your fall from grace is bound to be.
Apparently, Cuomo didn’t pay attention to Spitzer’s self-destruction. If he had, he would have understood that the public can forgive a lot – but never arrogance and will not overlook bullying, in any form.
When you fall down as a result of your own awful decisions, a lot of people will get their kicks from kicking you when you’re down.
Cuomo’s sins seem even more glaring in this age of #MeToo attitudes. He comes across as the world’s biggest clod, at the very least. His plea that he may somehow stand as a victim of the world’s changing attitudes about workplace relations does not hold water. At all.
The governor’s values and character were further questioned when he announced that he would be passing the torch in TWO weeks tine. Hmmm.
Why, legal and political pundits demanded to know, why the disgraced governor would be permitted to make the decision — and why the heck did he deserve what amounted to a two-week grace period? Something smelled foul about the arrangement.
Cuomo was governor for 11 years and has been a public figure a lot longer. His father was a three-term New York governor. His privileged upbringing gave him a ringside seat at power and responsibility. He should know better. That argument is pitiful and laughable.
It is very early, but Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has emerged as a leader who can show the way and lead our complicated state. Her record shines with examples of her instincts to do the right thing. Poised to become New York’s first woman governor in history, she does not seem to be overwhelmed by the historical moment – and it is a good bet that she will retain her integrity and dignity.
During her press conference following Cuomo’s exit announcement, Hochul exhibited all the tools of effective leadership — decisiveness, thoughtfulness, confidence, a quick wit and empathy. You got the feeling that she wouldn’t let bluster override that sense of empathy.
Hochul is not likely to suffer the kinds of ethical lapses that did in her two predecessors. She has never displayed the kind of mammoth ego that ultimately led them both to disastrous consequences. Hochul, by all indications, appears to lack the need to remind the media how wonderful she is.
By contrast, Cuomo felt the need to write a book on leadership during the early stage of the global pandemic — and bargained to receive millions of dollars for his story. Hochul didn’t want to step out of the shadows for the satisfaction of her desire to be universally acclaimed.
Yes, Cuomo did a wonderful job of helping us all to feel somehow optimistic, even as COVID-19 scared everyone from New York to New Zealand and made each of us worry about our simple ability to stay alive.
In perfect 20/20 hindsight, though, we can all suppose that Cuomo’s need to feel important may have overshadowed his impulse to calm the country during his upbeat daily, reassuring, televised proclamations.
I don’t expect to see Governor Hochul craving the spotlight and we will be better for it.
Cuomo leaves behind a shoddy legacy, despite any good he may have done for his state. But his demise teaches the essential values of humility and civility.
I have no doubt that Hochul, a little-known Democratic stalwart, can be as tough as any leader. But she will likely benefit from observing the backstory of Cuomo’s collapse: By the end of his reign, he had no allies ready to step forward and try to defend him and his record. In fact, many abandoned him in the time of his greatest need.
Maybe the next group of hopefuls pursuing Cuomo’s soon-to-be-old job will remember that the world is changing decisively. Bullying didn’t work in the school yard, and it doesn’t work in 2021 politics. The most obvious sign of President Joe Biden’s persona is what pundits describe as his essential goodness, which helps him present a folksy image.
Biden seems like the kind of person that you might find in a neighborhood tavern, an Everyman who conveys empathy and espouses do-gooder beliefs. Andrew Cuomo, by contrast, sought to crush any opponent in his path and show us, always, that he was The Man.
To all of you politicians, learn from Cuomo’s example.
Not just because it is a good way to live.
It also translates into smart politics.