In one of the most surprising turns of events in politics, Andrew Cuomo has decided to resign from office, becoming the third consecutive head of state to end his tenure in disgrace. At this point, the New York Governor is basically the Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwarts, after a curse was placed upon the position by George Pataki. All across the land, there were cries of triumph from all of his political opponents, Democratic and Republican alike, perhaps none more so than his fiercest rival, embattled New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio. Democrats, specifically, got to puff out their chests. “See,” they were heard to say. “We take care of our problems in-house,” pointing to how they successfully ousted Cuomo with overwhelming support from his own party, and contrasting it with how Republicans refused to do something about Donald Trump for four years.
It has become a rallying cry, with headlines like “Dems Turn on Cuomo, but GOP Will Never Turn on Trump” from the Chicago Sun Times, or “Democrats’ Accountability for Cuomo Reveals Republicans’ Weakness with Trump” from the Independent. It’s as if these media outlets woke up in 2019 and thought that this was when the world started. So it is probably a good idea to take a look back on why there is a difference between Trump and Cuomo, and if Democrats really should be dislocating their arms in an effort to pat themselves on the back for this one.
Let’s start with the conveniently ignored. This is not the first time a party has ousted its own governor over the type of misconduct Andrew Cuomo is being accused of. You see, Missouri state Republicans forced the resignation of Governor Eric Greitens all the way back in 2018. For some reason, this is not worthy of comparison to Andrew Cuomo. In fact, there have been a number of times that both Democrats and Republicans ousted their own party member for their misconduct. Democrats forced the resignation of Senator Al Franken. Republicans removed Congressman Steve King from his assignments, and backed his challenger in the next election, successfully removing him from office. History is littered with parties standing up to their own members when action needs to be taken.
There are, however, two exceptions to this rule. The first exception is the reason Ralph Northam is still the Governor of Virginia, and that is when the alternative to the person in power is a member of the other party. Take all of the examples listed above. Cuomo will be replaced by a Democrat. Greitens was replaced by a Republican. Franken’s successor was appointed by the state Governor, who was a Democrat, ensuring that the seat remained blue. King was the representative of a heavily red district that was never in question. Ralph Northam’s next two successors were both Democrats but embattled in their own scandals. The next in line would have been a Republican. Once that was on the table, calls for resignation magically stopped. It is almost unheard of for a party to call for the head of its own member if it means giving up the position to the other side. Almost, and we’ll get to that…later.
“But,” you ask, “then, why did the Republicans not remove Trump? They would have been safe because the position would have remained with their party! Mike Pence would have taken over! This shows just how weak the Republicans are – they could have kept the presidency and gotten rid of the Orange Devil!” Whoa, whoa. Slow down there, buddy. There are answers, and you shall receive them, even though you got a little weird at the end there. The second exception to the rule is the answer to why there is a difference between Andrew Cuomo and Donald Trump, and that is presidency vs. governorship. It is extremely rare for members of one’s own party to try to remove a president. Trump was certainly an example, but so was Bill Clinton. Remember him? How many Democrats in the Senate voted to convict Clinton do you think? Did you answer zero? Because that’s the right answer. The President is a much bigger deal to remove than a Governor, and the only one to have it done was a certain Watergate president who was actually (checks notes) a Republican. Interesting.
But back to the time a party called for the head of its own member if it meant giving up the position to the other side you were promised. This would be the 2017 special election for Senate in Alabama. After allegations came out against Republican candidate Roy Moore, a number of prominent Republicans withdrew their support for Moore, including Senators Mike Lee, Steve Daines, Bill Cassidy, and Ted Cruz. Other prominent Republicans called on Moore to step aside, including Senators John McCain, Mitt Romney, Cory Gardner, Mitch McConnell, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. The result was a win for Democrat Doug Jones in a state that hadn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate in nearly 30 years. This was the most recent and most prominent example of a party giving up a seat in order to do the right thing. This does not happen often, so before Democrats start celebrating their own morality, ask yourself if you would force the resignation of Cuomo if it meant a Republican in Albany instead. And if you were being honest with yourself, you would know that the answer is no. And in case you need proof of that, look across the country to California to see how well the Democrats there are holding Governor Gavin Newsom’s feet to the fire.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.