Andrew Cuomo and the Performance of Power

03.19.2021 - By The Ezra Klein Show

Download our free app to listen on your phone

Six months ago, Andrew Cuomo was on top of the world. He was touted as the anti-Donald Trump — the calm, fact-driven coronavirus leader the country needed. Now, amid allegations of hiding the true number of Covid-19 deaths in New York nursing homes and of workplace sexual harassment and abusive behavior, most of the state’s major Democratic politicians are calling for Cuomo’s resignation.

Rebecca Traister is a writer at large at New York magazine and the author of “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.” Last week, Traister published an extraordinary piece on the allegations against Cuomo. For her, the Andrew Cuomo story is a lot bigger than just Andrew Cuomo; it’s about the nature of toxic workplaces and the desire — even among Democrats — for strongmen leaders. And more than that, it’s about what we’ve been taught leadership looks like, and how the aesthetic of the tough, domineering male leader covers up, or contributes to, poor leadership.

So I wanted to bring Traister on the show to discuss the details of the Cuomo story and its broader implications. We discuss what Cuomo has actually been accused of (including Traister’s own in-depth reporting), why we often mistake bullying for leadership, what blind spots the Cuomo story reveals among liberals, the trade-offs between projecting an aesthetic of power and actually governing, why white male rage is so accepted and even admired, the parallels between Cuomo and Trump, how this story recasts reporting on Hillary Clinton and Amy Klobuchar, the double bind faced by female politicians, and much more.


"Abuse and Power" by Rebecca Traister, New York magazine


The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
My Ántonia by Willa Cather
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
Unbought and Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm
The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont
The Church Mouse by Graham Oakley
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson
The Complete 8-Book Ramona Collection by Beverly Cleary
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at [email protected]

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Roge Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

More episodes from The Ezra Klein Show