Cuomo And His Admirers: Bully Lovers

Too much power into too few hands.

We need to be controlled by superior ideas, not highly successful bullies. To change this requires changing the nature of politics and “leadership”: instead of trying to elect miracle leaders, we need to find out what the better ideas are, and accept to be ruled by them, the better angels of logic and compassion. So we need to learn to aspire to be led by debates, not by bullies. 

Representative democracy, as we have it now, disingenuously represents that a few individuals represent all of us. They can’t. It’s a lie to pretend they can. Democracy should not be about the one replacing the many. Democracy should be about people power (what demos-kratia means), and the power of the people is what comes out of the debates of the people: suggesting ideas, adjudicating them, modifying them, and accepting them. As long as we look for brutish “controlling” autocrats, to “lead” us, we will get them. Cuomo is just the latest blatant example. It is the aspirations of the political system, what the “demos” wants, which need to be changed. As long as we prefer to listen to lies rather than finding the truth, we will be the victims of pseudo-progressives and pseudo-democrats.  

New York Times: “You can’t call yourself a progressive champion while cutting school funding and Medicaid. You can’t call yourself a progressive champion while fondling young women and making them feel as if they are only valued for their high heels and short skirts. You can’t call yourself a progressive champion when your quest to assert your dominance leads to needless death. But Mr. Cuomo has tried to pull it off by using his political might to divert our attention.

The unmasking of Mr. Cuomo’s aggressive and abusive tactics offers a moment for us to reflect on the kinds of leaders we want and the best ways for them to pursue change. “I am a controlling personality,” he writes of himself in his new book. “But you show me a person who is not controlling and I’ll show you a person who is probably not highly successful.”

This is wrong. Requiring our leaders to be ruthless makes it harder for women and people of color to enter the halls of power. It associates competence with cruelty, which is something white men are allowed to brandish but other leaders are not.

The NYT says that we should have known about Cuomo long ago. Yes, starting with the fact his dad was NY governor too, so he inherited the job. But not just that: democrats should know they don’t have democracy, as it is, and structural reforms are needed.

Patrice Ayme


More NYT on Cuomo: “For Mr. Cuomo, government has always been a show, and that was the case long before he won an Emmy for appearing on TV with PowerPoint slides. His flashy policy actions were paper thin, a veil for his pointed attacks on the most vulnerable.

In truth, he has long championed deep austerity even as he has touted high-profile progressive social issues. As early as his first year in office, he crowed about a “historic and transformational” state budget that reduced spending by more than 2 percent, in particular through reductions for Medicaid and education. The budget also eliminated some services for domestic violence victims and the homeless.

He has been at it ever since. In 2019, he clashed with newly empowered leaders of his own party in the Legislature when he resisted an increase in spending on education and other social programs. The next year, as a health crisis hit, he was still insisting that he couldn’t complete a state budget without cutting Medicaid. He has long opposed education increases, even for the neediest schools. When Congress sent coronavirus relief funding to the country’s highest-poverty schools in March 2020, including those in New York City, Mr. Cuomo cut the exact same amount from the state budget that the city would normally receive, wiping out the new money with a stroke of his pen. (This came after he had the gall to accuse Democrats in the State Legislature of failing to increase funding for poor school districts in 2019.)

All along, before the pandemic and during it, he has refused to consider raising taxes on the wealthy (until very recently),

His focus on his own image over and above improving life for New Yorkers has bordered on the absurd. Beginning in 2014, Mr. Cuomo installed more than 500 “I Love NY” signs along our highways as a PR move, despite being told that the Federal Highway Administration wouldn’t allow them, costing the state a $14 million fine. (The signs themselves had already cost $8.1 million.)

We still don’t know if, or when, Mr. Cuomo’s many scandals will ultimately depose him. But whenever he leaves power, New York should be ready to pick a different kind of leader. It would be a mistake to replace Mr. Cuomo with someone who pursues actual progressive policies with the same brutal aggression. We need someone who can get things done without leaving a path of abuse in his or her wake.

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