Few expected New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to announce his resignation, effective August 24, at Tuesday’s mid-day press conference. But the news wasn’t exactly a surprise. That’s because an investigation by the state attorney general’s office concluded last week that he had sexually harassed 11 women — and because Cuomo is a Democrat, the only party in American politics still capable of shame.
Now, I should be clear that this doesn’t mean every or even most Democratic office holders are especially prone to bouts of blushing at the thought of moral transgressions. I certainly don’t think Cuomo himself is especially plagued by feelings of guilt. His first reaction to the attorney general’s report was defiance, and that tone continued all the way up through the opening minutes of his resignation speech.
Yet, the party’s voters expect better, and the institutional party responds accordingly. Within hours of the attorney general’s press conference last week, the president of the United States, leading Democrats in Washington, and key members of the New York State Assembly had called on Cuomo to step down. With polls showing a majority favoring resignation, pressure in Albany mounting, and defenders dwindling, attempting to hang on would have been maximally risky. That made Cuomo’s decision a no-brainer.
The contrast with the Republican Party couldn’t be sharper.
Since Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the party in 2016, the GOP has adopted an ethos of merciless bellicosity. Fighting is what counts and what gets rewarded. Sacrificing for the sake of principle is denigrated and dismissed. To resign is to give up power voluntarily. It’s therefore a choice reserved only for suckers and chumps.
Add in the cult of personality that has accompanied this shift in moral orientation and we’re left with a party overwhelmingly predisposed to forgive transgressions of the most charismatic and politically potent members of the team. Not even overwhelming evidence of treasonous acts, and certainly not accusations of sexual misconduct and violence, is sufficient to get large numbers of Republican voters to turn on their own.
That makes the GOP America’s party of political shamelessness. One wonders if Andrew Cuomo sometimes wishes he were a Republican.