NEW YORK — Memo to Gov. Andrew Cuomo: I am not moving out of New York state because I do not fit the strict mold you recently described for the ideal state resident.
Cuomo made the remarks while speaking on a radio show, about what he described as a split in the moderate and conservative wings of the New York State Republican Party, according to CBS New York.
“Who are they?” Cuomo said. “Are they these extreme conservatives who are 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, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
Unless you live under a rock, you know this type of remark is sure to ignite a firestorm. Yet, I was surprised to hear that one of the earliest responses came from Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
“The extremists are those who want to radically expand abortion, are not happy with the way things are, resistant to the constitutionally legal restraints that have been reasonably placed upon abortion,” said Cardinal Dolan.
New York Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox characterized Cuomo’s comments as “intolerant” and “arrogant.
“I call for the governor to apologize to good conservatives and Catholics, who, in fact, he was saying have no place in New York state,” Cox said.
As the mudslinging continued through the state’s winter of discontent, Cuomo’s office said his comments were taken out of context and that he was only saying that an extreme right-wing candidate cannot win statewide in a moderate state.
I did not realize New York was a one-party state. Republicans, typically aligned with conservative values and viewpoints, maintain a strong presence in the state Legislature. They were put there by voters exercising their democratic rights.
While many big-city mayors were silent regarding Cuomo’s rant, at least one stepped up to support it. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, new to the Empire State dance card, jumped to Cuomo’s defense.
“I interpret his remarks to say that an extremist attitude that continues the reality of violence in our communities or an extremist attitude that denies the rights of women does not represent the views of the people of New York State,” said de Blasio.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New York has about 19.65 million residents. Who is to say what kind of person qualifies him or her as a Cuomo-approved New Yorker? He is painting urban, suburban and rural residents with the same brush, which, as any political adviser will tell you, is a huge generalization.
I doubt Cuomo would repeat those remarks in a small-town American Legion Post, or before a devout Christian congregation. While he must be feeling confident of continuing support from more liberal New Yorkers, he still needs a majority to win re-election in November and a landslide in order to be considered a viable player in the 2016 presidential race. He also might want to brush up on his Empire State history.
Al Smith, the state’s first Catholic governor, was a loyal member of the Democratic Party. Yet, when he was shunned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Smith changed course and backed unsuccessful GOP candidates for the White House in 1936 and 1940.
Robert A. Slayton, a professor of history at Chapman University, wrote something Cuomo should have considered, before he told conservative New Yorkers they were out of place.
“Every American has a right to private beliefs, but we are not voting for which church someone goes to, or which movie he sees or what book she reads. The question should be the candidate’s outlook on the country’s problems and what policies he advocates in response. Those are what count and they are weighty enough concerns,” Slayton wrote in the New York Times in 2011.
I don’t consider myself an “extreme” by Cuomo standards, but I know one thing. He’s not going to tell me to move.
David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.