Well, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has really outdone himself. The presumed 2016 Democratic Party presidential contender is already preparing for a run for higher office by envisioning ideological purges. Speaking on a radio program last Friday, he made the claim that "extreme conservative" views are not welcome in the Empire State. Of members of the Republican Party, he asked, “Who are they? Are they these extreme conservative, right to life, pro assault weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York.” Leaving aside Cuomo's questionable idea that he is the one who should define what it means to be conservative, his statement is troubling. His supporters point out that in full context, he is only speaking of Republicans who seek state office. But shouldn't the character of political representation be determined by the will of the voters, and not by career politicians who think they know better?
Cuomo to this point has been rightfully hailed as a moderate. He has been unfraid to push back against New York's mighty public employee unions, who never hesitate to shamelessly make sky-high demands on the taxpayer despite beleaguered public coffers. It is to Cuomo's credit—especially as a Democrat, the party which has been historically cozy with public workers—that he has tried to moderate their demands. A new poll released today by Siena College shows that for the most part, the voters are eating up what Cuomo has to offer.
But in a piece in the January-February print edition of the American Spectator—cough, buy it not at your local bookstore if you don't already subscribe, cough, cough!—I took a look at his inept management as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Clinton, as well as the plausible argument that he played a key role in causing the housing crisis and resulting economic crash. One of his underlings at HUD was Bill de Blasio, New York City's radical-left new mayor. During de Blasio's tenure at HUD as director of the New York-New Jersey region, he let $23 million in taxpayer funds walk out the door with alleged fraudsters. Now as mayor of New York, he is taking on the hard issues like the plight of Central Park carriage horses and just how unfair it is that some people are richer than others.
Perhaps in an attempt to shift leftwards and meet the supposed promise of the new de Blasio administration, the normally moderate Cuomo has already embraced some of the Sandinista mayor's policy prescrptions. And now, his intemperate—and frankly, disgusting—comments about just who belongs in New York State. I recently moved away from New York for the first time in my life to pursue graduate education. I'd hate to think I'm no longer welcome in my home state. What if my conservative viewpoints aren't "moderate" enough for Cuomo?
Liberals today, led by the celebrated pop-historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, like to make the tortured claim that Abraham Lincoln should be considered one of their own. As those who have read their Lincoln should understand, this take is incorrect. But Cuomo would still do well to take a page from the Great Emancipator's playbook.
In his Temperance Address of 1842, which was ostensibly about those fighting alcohol abuse, Lincoln set his sights not on reformed boozehounds, but on those in favor of the abolition of slavery. He guided his audience, with whom he sympathized, not to cast absolute judgements on slaveowners because of the moral implications that can arise from extreme viewpoints. It is only a short step away from viewing your ideological opponents as inhuman, and history has taught us that kind of thinking is often dangerous.
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