The Corner

Politics & Policy

Andrew Cuomo and That Convenient ‘Resign but Don’t Impeach’ Zone of Wrongdoing

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, March 24, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

On paper, it should be exceptionally rare for an elected official to commit a wrongdoing that is severe enough to spur members of his own party to call for his resignation, but not quite severe enough to spur an effort to impeach him or remove him from office.

If a scandal, behavior, bad judgement, or crime is bad enough that a lawmaker should resign, it should be bad enough to get him removed, right? That sweet spot of “really bad, but not quite bad enough to get removed from office” shouldn’t cover a wide range of misdeeds.

When a legislator calls upon an elected official to resign, he’s announcing he believe that leader is no longer fit to hold public office. But by refusing to take any action to remove him, he’s declaring that he trusts that leader to decide whether he’s still fit for office. It’s announcing that somebody’s got faulty judgment and a deficient conscience . . . but you still have confidence in that same judgment and conscience to decide whether or not he can serve out his term.

If the elected leader had good judgment and a functioning conscience, he probably wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

And yet, that resign-but-not-impeach zone is where Andrew Cuomo currently is with most of his party: “At least 121 members of the state Assembly and Senate have said publicly they believe Cuomo can no longer govern and should quit office now, according to a tally by The Associated Press. The count includes 65 Democrats and 56 Republicans.” A handful of Democrats have called for Cuomo’s impeachment, and to their credit, the state assembly’s judiciary committee appears to be prepping an investigation, which would be the first step on the road to impeachment. But at least for now, Cuomo appears convinced he can weather the storm and wait out the outrage — and that doesn’t seem so unthinkable. After all, a bit down Interstate 95, Virginia governor Ralph Northam survived his scandals.

If New York Democratic state legislators want Cuomo to resign, they need to publicly declare that the governor will face consequences for his actions. Otherwise, they’re setting themselves up to be a rerun of Virginia Democratic state legislators. They called upon Northam to resign, Northam refused, and . . . everyone just went about their lives, with minimal consequences for Northam.

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