By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK
It was encouraging to see the mixture of outrage and ridicule heaped upon New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his comments during a radio interview on January 17. Commentators on Fox News and in conservative publications have not let up on Cuomo since they heard what he said. That is not surprising. What was more revealing was that few liberal spokesmen have come to his defense; their tactic seems to be to lie low and hope the brouhaha passes over.
You can see why Cuomo is getting all the heat. His comments were, well, stupid. He told the radio host that “extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapons, and anti-gay” have “no place in New York because that’s not who New Yorkers are.” In the 1960s there was a poster favored by some right-wing activists that read “The United States: Love It or Leave It!” The smart people in the media and the academy at the time mocked the poster as an example of simple-minded intolerance and ethnocentrism. If there is a difference between the sentiment behind that poster and Cuomo’s words, I can’t locate it.
Cuomo’s spinmeisters have been trying to backtrack on the comments, but unsuccessfully. Cuomo might wish he had not said what he said, but his meaning was clear. He harbors an animus against conservatives and pro-life Catholics that goes far beyond the normal democratic understanding of our political adversaries as the “loyal opposition.”
The most common criticism of Cuomo is to list all the people who would have to leave New York state if Cuomo’s wish came true. No question, New York is a solidly blue state, but I don’t think anyone would disagree that somewhere around 35 or 40 percent of New Yorkers oppose same-sex marriage, are pro-life, and favor fewer restrictions on gun ownership than does Cuomo. Conservative Republicans routinely win local elections in the suburbs of New York City and Albany. That’s a lot of voters to write off.
The archbishop of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, would have to leave, as well as all of New York’s priests and Orthodox rabbis. Someone who held the same views as Cuomo’s father Mario back in the 1970s also would have had to leave. According to a story on Newsmax by George Marlin (newsmax.com), when running for lieutenant governor of the state in 1974, Mario Cuomo said in a debate that he “would have voted against the 1970 law that relaxed abortion curbs in the state.” In 1977, during his campaign for mayor of New York City, he told voters he would veto a “gay rights” bill “that would give homosexual teachers the right to proselytize or advocate their lifestyle.”
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, onetime senator from the state and a hallowed figure for New York’s liberals, would have to leave, too. He argued unequivocally against partial-birth abortion as a form of infanticide.
Some have argued that Cuomo’s new hard-left views can be traced to the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City. That makes sense. De Blasio appears to be interpreting his victory as an indication that the country is ready for a period of secular liberal activism. It may be that Cuomo agrees; that he does not want to be outdone and is seeking to appeal to New York’s liberal base by trumpeting his left-wing bona fides. It is a strategy that worked for Barack Obama in his last run for the presidency. His tactic was not to follow the conventional wisdom about “moving to the center” in the general election, but to activate liberal constituencies: minorities, feminists, homosexuals, environmentalists, and those seeking increased government assistance.
Let us leave aside for the moment whether or not de Blasio’s victory was on Cuomo’s mind. His comments offer us yet another example of the hypocrisy of the left in this country. When out of power the left marches under the banners of diversity, pluralism, tolerance, inclusion, and a respect for freedom of expression. That all ends when they take hold of the reins of power, whether in the governor’s mansion or the administration building at a university.
Cuomo’s stance is no different from that of the free-speech liberals who impose politically correct codes of conduct once they are in charge of making policy in a university. It is a version of the radicals who march to defend the right of Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on campus, but then organize protests to shout down conservative speakers such as Ann Coulter and Patrick Buchanan and to drive the ROTC from campus. Diversity of opinion, in their understanding of the term, means only diversity of left-wing opinion. People on the right are beyond the pale. It is fitting and proper for them to be driven from campus, or forced to leave New York state.
We have to hope that the mainstream of Americans will one day catch on to how this game is played. The secular leftists are for freedom of expression and toleration of minority views only when they are in the minority. They use the ideas of toleration and diversity and the “marketplace of ideas” as a way of securing for themselves room to speak out against a majority that holds the traditional beliefs they seek to undermine. Their hope is that they can disarm those committed to a defense of the heritage of the Christian West by shaming them with the proposition that they are close-minded and intolerant.
All that ends when their tactics work. Once they are in charge, they move quickly to shore up their authority. It becomes evil — racist, sexist, homophobe, militaristic — to disagree with them. This liberal university — “love it or leave it.” This liberal state — “love it or leave it.”
I have heard it said that those who oppose Cuomo’s aspirations for higher office should welcome this brouhaha; that the man’s clumsy choice of words reveals that he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. It is true: Bill Clinton, Jerry Brown, and Elizabeth Warren would have known how to criticize “right-wing extremists” without making it seem as if they were including large chunks of middle-class and working-class Americans in their denunciation.
That may be so. Cuomo is not the speaker his father was; he needs his teleprompter. He seems to lack intellectual depth. But, in politics, cunning, ruthlessness, and a lack of shame often count for more than intelligence. Andrew Cuomo has demonstrated that he has those qualities in abundance.