Mar 17th, 2021, 07:10 AM

Can Gen-Z Trust Any Politicians?

By Avery Caroline Harle
Image credit: Flickr/Marie-Joelle Parent
Analyzing Andrew Cuomo's sexual assault allegations as a prominent political figure during the era of COVID-19.

During the first anxiety-inducing confinement in spring 2020, I sought peace of mind in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's daily Coronavirus press briefings on CNN. At the time, the politician seemed like the only American government official to handle a complex public health crisis, especially in such a densely-populated, major city like New York. The city had quickly become one of the hardest-hit in America and New Yorkers experienced the then-foreign concept of "quarantining" under government stay-at-home orders for several months. 

Yet even as Cuomo recapped the numbers of deaths, infection rates, hospital capacity, and status of receiving more personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers at each briefing, I felt hope and reassurance that the U.S. would be able to overcome a pandemic of this magnitude in our increasingly globalized and interconnected world. Furthermore, as an American ex-patriat now permanently living in France, it was my duty to keep up with both America and France's COVID-19 news, regardless of how unsettling that news became.

Overall, I found Governor Cuomo to be charming. He seemed like an honest, family-oriented man, constantly chattering about his ritual of making spaghetti and meatballs on Sunday nights to pay tribute to his Italian heritage, and then sitting down to enjoy the home-cooked meal with his three daughters Cara, Mariah, and Michaela. He even mentioned in one press briefing that one of the daughter's boyfriends was expected to join them for Sunday night dinner, drawing up chatter and laughter from the reporters and journalists as he referred to the young man as, "The Boyfriend." Juxtaposed against former President Donald Trump's mismanagement of the pandemic, I truly thought to myself at the time, "This is a good guy, trying to do the right thing. How refreshing!"

Image credit: Unsplash/Kevin Grieve

Today, as news of sexual assault allegations, fabricated reportings of New York nursing home deaths, and other worrisome news has surfaced surrounding Cuomo's actions before and during the pandemic, I feel betrayed by the system. I am not incredibly politics-oriented, I care about people's character and whether or not they do the right thing.

Andrew Cuomo has clearly not done the right thing. Not only has he disrespected upwards of four women by making unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances, but he has also apparently fudged crucial COVID-19 data after giving American citizens the impression of complete transparency in those press briefings. As a naive Gen-Z-er, I'm upset that I put a politician on such a pedestal of moral righteousness when I should have known better. 

In general, distrust in politicians and the government is not a new phenomenon. Especially in the 1960s after President John F. Kennedy's assassination and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson's assumption of the presidency, trust in government across all generations began to decline heavily. This distrust was only exacerbated by bombshell scandals like President Nixon's Watergate and President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. Today, Americans have seemed to survive the era of Trumpism, yet trust remains at an all-time low particularly among Gen-Z citizens.

Image credit: Unsplash/Brian Wertheim

Stella Patel, a British-American junior majoring in Global Communications and minoring in Psychology, did not grow up talking about politics. "I was able to form my own political beliefs by being given a blank slate, but I was definitely very naive as a child," Stella says. "Once I was old enough, I began to decide what I agreed with and what I was against overall. Now, I think it is extremely naive to think that politicians and government officials have the people's best interest at heart when there are only two things elites are interested in: money and complete power," she continues. "Unfortunately, everything is so intertwined. Large corporations, the ultra-rich, politicians, etc. There is no separation amongst individuals who share the same social strata. Because of this, I will never fully place my trust in the hands of politicians or the media, which is generally incredibly biased and one-sided." Elements of the corruption and power abuse Stella describes are evident within the scandal involving Andrew Cuomo, who is now apparently refusing to resign even after a sixth woman has come forward accusing him of sexual harassment

I hope that as we move forward into our active, working adult lives, Gen-Z will continue to be courageous enough to speak out against what is not right. One of the only ways we can, as young private citizens, serve as "watchdogs" for large corporations and powerful institutions is by speaking up and staying firm in our value systems. Never underestimate the power of social media either, it just might be the tool we need to rely on until someday we are the ones in power, finally dismantling obsolete systems of oppression. 

If you are a victim of sexual harassment of any kind in France, please contact Institut National d’Aide aux Victimes et de Médiation.

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