“Can I say that I am a Cuomosexual?” talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres confessed in an April 2020 interview with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “You know that that’s going around, that people are saying they’re Cuomosexuals?” The governor attempted a deadpan response. “Yeah, I think that’s a good thing,” he agreed, barely repressing an immodest grin. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Ellen agreed. “People are in love with you,” she added.
True enough; at least, in the sense that cultish devotion can sometimes mimic genuine affection. And at the outset of the pandemic, the cult around Andrew Cuomo was thick. The “love gov” was perceived by his fans to have been such a competent manager of the pandemic (in stark contrast, they thought, with President Donald Trump), that they made music videos about him, plastered his face on the cover of magazines, marketed Cuomo-branded socks and coffee mugs, and fantasized in writing about taking advantage of his romantic availability.
The imprudence of this contrived hagiography was obvious at the time, but it became impossible to ignore when leaked reports out of Albany confirmed what observers already knew: New York had terribly mismanaged the pandemic’s earliest stages, giving way to scores of avoidable deaths. New York Attorney General Letitia James’s conclusion that Cuomo had engaged in “repeated physical violations” of women, breaking multiple “state and federal laws” in the process, should be the final humiliation for the Cuomosexual. But it won’t be. The furor that arose around Cuomo was not specific to him. It has sprouted up around many an unworthy figure. And only because each served a fleeting and instrumental purpose as an antithesis to Donald Trump.
After Cuomo, it was California Gov. Gavin Newsom. As the pandemic wore on, the Golden State governor began referring to California as a “nation-state,” emphasizing its self-reliance, distinction, and separateness from the rest of the Union and its unenlightened voters. His slavish fanbase rewarded this schismatic nonsense by deeming the governor “President Newsom.” Starved of leadership, prominent voices in the press heaped adulation on Newsom for speaking “hard truths,” having the courage to “mandate lockdowns,” and, most important, to “contradict what passes for pandemic policy under Trump.”
But as the state lurched from lockdown to reopening and back to lockdown—from mask mandates that persisted well after the CDC declared them redundant back to masking in certain parts of the state even before the CDC recommended reimplementing them—confidence in California’s governance waned. The pandemic and its associated restrictions pushed thousands of residents and hundreds of businesses out of the state—accelerating a preexisting trend toward exodus. And rising rates of violent crime and homelessness attributable to the state’s notoriously permissive progressive governance culminated in a recall effort targeting Newsom. It was, until recently, a contest he was favored to win. But the most recent Emerson College survey of California voters found that the race is statistically tied, with the momentum favoring the recall effort.
Then it was Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer—at least, for a while. A summer 2020 New York Times profile of the executive who guided Michigan through the worst of the pandemic from her living room amid natural disasters and an economic collapse—”all at a time when government itself seems broken”—conveyed to the average reader that Whitmer was the apotheosis of competence. “I was thrust into this moment,” the governor and “unlikely firebrand” told Vox.com. Impressive humility from a woman deemed “a rising star among Democrats” by the Washington Post. But most important, she had “emerged as a foil for Trump,” and that was all anyone really wanted.
But the patina of competence soon wore thin. Michigan, too, saw a series of successive COVID spikes as the virus routinely denied the managerial left the opportunity to deem the pandemic contained and controlled. Whitmer faced the same allegations that plagued Cuomo and Newsom: that she had leveraged her power to skirt the pandemic-related restrictions she imposed on her state’s citizens. She took a trip to Florida, without having been fully vaccinated, when her fellow Michiganders could not. When confronted about the trip, she lied. And like her fellow Democratic governors, who reinforced belief in their own competence, she led Michigan to pursue a nursing-home policy that only contributed to the pandemic’s deadly toll.
Who is next to see their unearned image tarnished by a more dispassionate review of their record? There are many candidates. Dr. Anthony Fauci is operating on borrowed time. The man whose face has graced everything from glossy print magazines, to t-shirts, to cupcakes has suddenly found himself the subject of surprisingly intense criticism for (again) dissembling, this time regarding the extent of the American public health bureaucracy’s financial relationship with its Chinese counterparts. American teachers’ unions, too, must be a source of profound disappointment. Their objection to municipal employee vaccination mandates amid an undisguised effort to keep schools from fully reopening indefinitely makes it difficult to maintain the notion that public-sector labor unions are the glue holding this American experiment together.
It is nothing short of astonishing that something in the liberal soul compels them to step on this same rake with metronomic regularity. It’s anyone’s guess who the next unqualified paragon of the pandemic will be. But that there will be another, there can be no doubt.