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Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is facing multiple and mounting allegations of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment, and his administration reportedly changed a state report to “obscure the true number of people killed by COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes,” according to the Associated Press.
The chorus calling for his resignation continues to grow, including from some prominent fellow New York Democrats. Impeachment doesn’t seem to be off the table. State Attorney General Letitia James is investigating his conduct.
While Cuomo has said he is sorry if he made anyone uncomfortable and didn’t know he was making anyone uncomfortable at the time, he has also refused to resign. He has, remarkably, said that it would be “anti-democratic” for him to do so before investigations into the allegations are complete.
“The premise of resigning because of allegations is actually anti-democratic,” Cuomo told reporters on March 7, according to Newsweek. “And we’ve always done the exact opposite. You know, the system is based on due process and the credibility of the allegation. Anybody has the ability to make an allegation in democracy, and that’s great, but it’s in the credibility of the allegation.”
We have to wonder, does Cuomo think it was anti-democratic for former President Richard Nixon to resign? Would it have been anti-democratic for multiple officials, who Cuomo at some point had called on to resign, to actually listen to him?
He has a right to defend himself, in public and in court if it ever comes to that. But he shouldn’t pretend that he’s defending democracy in the process.
The ability to criticize those in power, even to call for their resignation, is a very democratic thing. Such dissent is not tolerated in Communist China. It has been punished throughout history by monarchs and despots. Democracy doesn’t require a leader to bend to calls for their resignation; but it doesn’t shield them from those calls, either.
Yes, due process is fundamental to our democracy. And yes, there is a slide toward collective overreaction in our society. We don’t want to see America governed by mob rule or by people jumping on whatever bandwagon is popular that day.
Some bandwagons, however, exist for a reason. The increasingly popular call for Cuomo’s resignation is based on allegations from seven women, including several former aides. There’s a photo from one of the alleged instances, where Cuomo is placing his hands on the woman’s face at a wedding. Cuomo himself has acknowledged the “pain I’ve caused,” though he has denied inappropriately touching anyone. What he can’t deny is that James, the attorney general, has already released a report finding that the state undercounted the number of nursing homes residents who died from COVID-19.
“In light of the Governor’s admission of inappropriate behavior and the findings of altered data on nursing home COVID-19 deaths he has lost the confidence of the public and the state legislature, rendering him ineffective in this time of most urgent need,” 59 Democratic state lawmakers said in a March 11 letter, after a new allegation that he groped an aide last year surfaced. “It is time for Governor Cuomo to resign.”
The decision whether or when to resign is Cuomo’s to make. He doesn’t have to do it, before or after investigations are complete. But he shouldn’t pretend that heeding these calls to resign would somehow be anti-democratic.