Andrew Cuomo, despite his own high ratings as governor and numerous Democrats nationwide wanting him to run in 2016 or 2020, never even took things that far. Never, really, even sent up the proverbial trial balloons about making a run for president.
Mario’s seemingly inexplicable reluctance to run gave rise to all sorts of scurrilous, bigoted rumors that he had personal or family ties to the mob. Not a scintilla of evidence has ever emerged to that effect, then or since.
Could it have been some greater reluctance holding the Cuomos back? Could it be that, for all that they have celebrated their heritage—Mario’s story of his immigrant father saving a huge blue spruce tree on their property was a staple of his speeches—there was some residual ethnic reluctance there, a feeling that these first- and second-generation Italian-Americans still didn’t really, fully belong?
Or could it be that the Cuomos are the first New York provincials?
For the leaders of what has always been one of our most sophisticated, cosmopolitan states, the Cuomos always seemed a little ill-at-ease outside of their Albany comfort zones. It was no coincidence that Mario Cuomo was a friend and huge fan of William Kennedy, Albany’s brilliant chronicler in fiction and history. Politically, the old Albany of “three men in a room”—a remarkably retro place where for decades most of the state government was window dressing, the final decisions made exclusively by the governor with the leaders of the state assembly and senate—was always the Albany that both Cuomos, father and son, seemed most comfortable with.
Usually, that meant a tidy, centrist—some would say, corrupt—consensus worked out between both parties. It also meant a redoubt for the Cuomos where they could bully, harangue and harass their subordinates in so many ways. When liberal Democrats, outraged by the election of Donald Trump, stormed the state legislature from the left at the polls, Andrew Cuomo’s grip on power inexorably began to slip.
New York has had plenty of political dynasties in the past, going all the way back to the start of the Republic, and even before. The Livingstons, the o.g. Clintons (George and De Witt), the Hamiltons, Van Burens, Wagners, Roosevelts—and yes, even the Kennedys, through the transplanted Bobby. Yet almost always, these families were intent on grabbing for the big prize, down in Washington, and as often as not, they did just that.
Not so much the Cuomos, late of Hollis, Queens, who found their blue heaven not on the Potomac but the Hudson, in a sagging old river town. When the modern world broke in on that sanctuary—when the toxic privileges of ensconced power could be exposed to real public scrutiny—the family was done.