Someone walked up to me the other day and asked, “Why does everyone hate Cuomo?”
I told him in no uncertain terms that I didn’t think that was fair. I pointed out that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had won re-election by a great margin and that he still is getting considerable credit for his courageous victories on gay marriage and gun control. What’s more, the polling data on the guy is still quite healthy for a governor in his second term.
“Well, that may be true,” said my new friend, “but everyone I speak with says they don’t like him. Just look at what happened when Zephyr Teachout, an unknown law professor with no money, ran against him in a Democratic primary. In much of upstate New York, she beat his pants off.”
“Well,” I responded, “it is true that he has made some dumb moves. We all know that decapitating the Moreland Act Commission before it was done with its anti-corruption work stank like old fish. And he really let us down with the whole gerrymandering-reapportionment legislation that would allow the majority parties in the Assembly and the Senate to continue the despicable, anti-democratic nonsense of drawing their own districts. His treatment of Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City has some folks thinking that he’s a bully. His scheduling of a major cabinet meeting in Albany the day that the mayor was visiting made some people suspect that he was upstaging the mayor. For his part, Mayor de Blasio has been nothing but nice to Cuomo. There are some unkind people who believe that Cuomo has no friends but what the kids call ‘frenemies’ — half friend, half enemy. I have been searching my mind for examples of people in the public sector who we all know are friends to Andrew.”
“So,” I said to my inquisitor, “it may be something else.”
“I’ll tell you what I think,” he said. “I just don’t think he’s very nice. Most people I know think he is just mean and that he’s a political animal who is at war with everyone whether they like him or not. I actually used to like him, but then I ran into a teacher friend of mine, and — boy, oh boy! — do they hate him. My friend is a perfectly nice lady without a mean bone in her body. In fact, she’s not a bit political. She just can’t understand why Cuomo keeps picking fights with teachers. She says that his blaming them for failing schools is incredibly unfair. She says that the teachers who teach in the most difficult districts are heroes and have a much harder job than all those people who teach in upscale districts, although they work hard, too. The point is that she is angry, and that comes from a person who is never really angry.”
I turned to my friend and explained that Sigmund Freud thought that our characters are formed by the time we are 4 years old. I repeated the words used by Andrew himself: “It is what it is.” I told her Andrew’s worst enemy is Andrew. I told her that we are all our own worst enemy.
Andrew Cuomo actually ’fessed up about all of this when he introduced his book. He knows that the old Andrew had a reputation but the new Andrew is not the old Andrew. Obviously, that confession didn’t help him sell books. Sales have been miserable. My bet is that if people don’t feel warm and cuddly about you, they are not likely to buy your book.
But still, I told my new friend that maybe people think his ability to get things done trumps his personal likability factor. In any case, even though I am a Freudian, I think working on our bad sides can be productive. Don’t you?
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 3/2/15