The Decline And Fall Of New York Democracy

The recent ignominious departure from office of Andrew Cuomo is the latest act in New York’s sad saga of political decline. Cuomo fell because of his private life, such as it was; the right thing for the wrong reason.

The standards applied to him would have victimized, among others, the state’s 49th governor, Nelson Rockefeller. Cuomo’s manipulation of nursing home statistics would have been an appropriate ground for forcing his departure; groping was not, unless we are to make of sexual harassment law a blackmailer’s charter. The facts of these matters cannot be accurately determined, especially when time has passed, and in any event they are largely irrelevant to performance in public office, though the greatest leaders, e.g. Winston Churchill and Charles De Gaulle, avoid such hazards.

One reflecting on the downfall of the New York Democracy must call to mind the words of the railroad president Charles Francis Adams in his “Chapters of Erie,” quoting the third act of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, on the decline of the New York judiciary from Chancellor Kent to the satraps of the Tweed Ring: ”Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed. And batten on this moor?”

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