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Opinion Please, Democrats. Don’t turn Andrew Cuomo into another Al Franken.

Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) joined calls for New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations. (Video: Reuters)
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So many New York state politicians are stepping forward to plunge the knife into Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that the state’s political scene feels like “Murder on the Orient Express.” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) say he should quit because of the sexual harassment allegations lodged against him. The head of the New York State Senate says the same. So does a majority of the state’s congressional delegation.

There’s just one thing: New York voters don’t agree. According to a poll released Monday by the Siena College Research Institute, half do not believe he should resign at this time. A plurality say they still have not decided whether the governor is guilty of sexual harassment.

New York’s Democratic leadership needs to pause and take a deep breath. Otherwise, it risks turning Cuomo into 2021’s version of Al Franken, the former Minnesota senator who became a martyr to supposedly unhinged “political correctness.” And this is the exact wrong thing to do.

Reminder: Cuomo’s problems — unlike Franken’s — did not begin with the some half-dozen sexual harassment allegations. They started with the state’s coverup of the thousands of nursing home deaths from covid-19, something quite possibly connected to a Cuomo administration order from last year ordering the institutions to accept patients diagnosed with the disease.

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This, in turn, seemed to break open a dam of more than a decade’s worth of insider dissatisfaction with Cuomo, a singularly unpleasant political figure who dominated the state by brute force of personality and threats. It was only then that the sexual harassment allegations began surfacing.

Cuomo appears determined to try to ride out the scandal — or should I say scandals? Even as news outlets published allegations that his favored aides instructed young women working in his office to wear high heels because it was Cuomo’s preference, the bully governor claimed at an Albany press conference he was the victim of “cancel culture” run amok. “Politicians who don’t know a single fact but yet form a conclusion and an opinion are, in my opinion, reckless and dangerous,” he sanctimoniously intoned.

Yes, this is beyond cynical and hypocritical. But it’s also an effective technique. Cuomo’s defense is seemingly finding fertile soil with both voters and the rank and file of the Democratic Party, where many are legitimately concerned about differing standards for Republicans — just how many dozen women accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment and abuse again? — and Democrats, who do often adopt a holier-than-thou attitude.

While political insiders have long known about Cuomo’s bullying ways, the public was mostly out of the loop until recently. Few know he shut down the Moreland Commission, a state investigation into political corruption, a year after creating it. Few seem to understand how he repeatedly backstabbed New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. And all too many New York City residents still have no idea the state’s governor bears the lion’s share of the responsibility for the city’s mass-transit woes.

Even so, CNN and MSNBC decided to turn Cuomo into a resistance and pandemic hero. While they allowed Cuomo to cosplay as a pandemic warrior, they rarely mentioned the fact that New York state has the second-highest per capita death rate from the coronavirus in the United States. As a result, the Siena poll found a majority of New York residents approve of Cuomo’s handling of the health crisis.

It’s hard not to suspect that the decline of local and tabloid media plays a role here. A decade ago, both the New York Daily News and the New York Post — which in 2003 had covered the seamy details of Cuomo’s divorce from Kerry Kennedy — still had a daily circulation of over half a million each. They are now shadows of themselves. The New York Times is prospering, but it’s not because of its devotion to local New York politics. In 2020, according to the Legislative Correspondents Association, Politico had more reporters assigned to cover New York state government than the three previously listed publications combined. A city — and state — that once thrilled to tabloid headlines is now oddly underinformed.

So let the full investigations and inquiries play out. They are likely to range beyond the sexual harassment allegations and nursing home woes, and take on Cuomo’s decade at the top of New York politics. That’s how the process should work.

Because this is what everyone needs to remember: Politicians are tried not just in legal settings but in the court of public opinion. If you want Cuomo gone for good, you need to get the voters on your side first.

Read more:

Karen Tumulty: Cuomo deserves due process. He should quit trying to interfere with it.

Max Boot: The Andrew Cuomo scandal highlights Republicans’ appalling double standard

James Hohmann: Why were liberals so blind about Andrew Cuomo? They wanted to believe.

The Post’s View: Would a well-run private company tolerate behavior like Andrew Cuomo’s?