Cuomo tests Democrats' #MeToo resolve

·2 min read
Andrew Cuomo.
Andrew Cuomo. Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock

A defiant New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made clear he would not resign in response to the Democratic state attorney general's determination that he had committed sexual harassment. "The facts are much different than what has been portrayed," he insisted, indicating that the many Empire State Democrats calling for him to step down would have to remove him themselves via the impeachment process.

For Democrats, this is a test. Since #MeToo, the party of Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton has done a much better job of holding its male elected officials accountable for sexual misconduct. Democrats can also plausibly maintain they have done better than the party of Roy Moore and former President Donald Trump.

Still, Democrats have seldom pushed out those accused of harassment or worse while they were in the prime of their political careers. John Conyers was almost 90 and nearing retirement when he resigned amid allegations. Clinton was long out of office, his wife had lost the 2016 presidential election, and the liberal reappraisal of his White House behavior was half-hearted at best. Rep. Ruben Kihuen of Nevada was just starting out.

The big exception was Al Franken, the comedian and commentator turned Democratic senator from Minnesota. When he resigned under pressure from his colleagues, he was ascendant. He was an effective fundraiser. He was at or near the pinnacle of his influence. There was at least a small chance he could eventually be replaced by a Republican. And he is gone.

Even in Franken's case, there have been attempts at rehabilitating his image. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of Cuomo's fellow New York Democrats, saw her 2020 presidential fortunes damaged by her efforts to get Franken to resign.

Cuomo is a chance for Democrats to cleanly distance themselves from a powerful sexual harasser. Many Democratic lawmakers in his own state have risen to this challenge. But it is evident that Cuomo will not leave of his own accord. Both Trump and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wrote out a proven playbook to wait out calls to resign and Cuomo is following it.

Will it once again succeed or can Democrats summon the courage to follow their stated feminist principles to their logical conclusion and impeach the son of a liberal icon?

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