What Cuomo's survival (so far) says about New York

So, what is it that nonetheless keeps Cuomo the Lesser popular among his constituents? The answer seems to be partly his unflagging control of the political narrative, as well as a Praetorian Guard of powerful special interests he has cultivated over the years. But there is something deeper too: the inclination of voters here to value toughness — or more accurately, rampant, ceaseless aggression — over everything, despite a history that shows you don’t need to be a jerk to be a good governor of New York…

Call it PTSD from the government dysfunction of the 1970s, Stockholm Syndrome or a weird sort of vanity. But the prevailing belief in recent decades, even among some of the bluest of liberals I know, seems to be that we are so tough and unruly that only someone with the personality of a bridge troll can rule over us.

We applauded Cuomo’s regular abuse of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as if we were at a prize fight, rather than watching two supposed adults tend to our nation’s greatest city. We have persisted in this mentality even as we watched the political carapaces of such former New York tough guys as Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani crack wide open like so many overturned beetles on the national stage. The suspicion grows that we are not so much truly tough at all as insular and voyeuristic in our pleasures, given over to cheap displays of bravado rather than real strength of character. “If you don’t want people to be mean to you, you shouldn’t go into politics,” “Cuomo may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard,” “Who else can run this place?” and “At least he gets things done” are some of the psychic shrugs I have heard of late — and for years now — from those I know who are among Cuomo’s legion of apologists.

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