New York Governor Andrew Cuomo claims that his extemporaneous attack on supposedly “extreme” Republicans got “distorted” by the New York Post. Of course he respects the pro-life and gun-rights Republicans! They just “have no place in New York.”
Oops — there I go, distorting Cuomo again by quoting him, emphasis mine:
You’ve seen that play out in New York, their SAFE act, the Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act. It was voted for by moderate republicans who run the Senate. Their problem is not me and democrats, their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives, who are right to life, pro assault weapon, anti-gay, is that who they are? Because if that is who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York. Because that is not who New Yorkers are.
In my column for The Week, I note that these positions are not anywhere as “extreme” as Cuomo argues:
The anti-gay remark, it should be noted, applies to Republicans who hold the same position on same-sex marriage as Barack Obama did until the middle of 2012. And according to most polls, the abortion position is hardly extreme, especially among Republicans. Cuomo is certainly free to consider these positions incorrect and argue for his own positions. Instead, he told the press that he felt those political positions were in essence illegitimate for public consumption.
This is part of a recent trend toward exclusion and blacklisting that used to be … bad. At least, I remember when the entertainment industry lectured us for decades that blacklisting over political and personal beliefs was about as un-American as it gets. These days … not so much:
However, the outrage industry swung into action almost as soon as GQ hit the publish button. Instead of debating [Duck Dynasty star Phil] Robertson on the merits of his argument, or at least on the presentation of 1 Corinthians, people demanded that Robertson get fired for what is basically mainstream Christianity — and the kind of provocative speech that got Robertson hired in the first place. Amazingly, A&E at first buckled under the pressure, announcing that Robertson was indefinitely suspended. That is, Robertson was suspended until A&E viewers made their displeasure known by tuning out. When it became clear that the economics of the situation favored inclusion rather than exclusion, A&E reversed course and reinstated Robertson without losing a frame of Duck Dynasty production.
Now let’s turn our eyes to California, which will hold its gubernatorial election in November. Incumbent Democrat Jerry Brown already has a challenger — Tea Party conservative Assemblyman Tim Donnelly. Donnelly cut an amusing bilingual web ad with Maria Conchita Alonso, best known for her star turn in Moscow on the Hudson. Alonso provided snarky Spanish-language translations for Donnelly’s arguments, including “We’re screwed.”
Cutting an ad for a Tea Party candidate, however much tolerance that exchange displayed, was a bridge too far in San Francisco. Alonso had been cast in a production of The Vagina Monologues, which Alonso would have performed in Spanish. When her producer discovered her support for Donnelly, Alonso lost her job. “We really cannot have her in the show, unfortunately,” producer Eliana Lopez told a local TV station. “Doing what she is doing is against what we believe.” She’s out of work because she endorsed a Republican.
Unfortunately, the blacklist lesson taught by the entertainment industry for so long doesn’t appear to have sunk in for the entertainment industry, but they’re not alone, either. On the opposite coast, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared anti-abortion and gun-rights Republicans not just wrong,but persona non grata. Incensed by Republicans running against his SAFE Act — which was so badly written that it had to be immediately amended to keep from disarming the police and pretty much everyone else — declared opposition to the law “extreme,” and worse.
That’s not to say that this impulse is limited to the Left. We’ve seen plenty of demands from the Right for progressives to get fired over outrageous remarks, too … but those don’t seem to work as well. Besides, the hypocrisy of this occurring in the entertainment industry — especially in Alonso’s case — and the extreme rhetoric coming from a sitting governor that tells mainstream opposition that they have no business in the political mix are both something new, and worth challenging.
Sean Hannity says he can’t wait to get out of New York now:
“Now I want to tell you something – I was born and raised in New York,” Hannity said. “I want you to know that and I can’t wait to get out of here. I really can’t. I don’t want to pay their 10-percent state tax anymore. I live in the second-highest property taxed county in the entire country in Nassau County. I can’t wait to sell my house to somebody who wants it. I can’t wait to pay no state income tax down in Florida or Texas. I haven’t decided yet, but I’m leaning Florida because I like the water and I like to fish.”
“Gov. Cuomo, I’m going to leave and I’m taking all of my money with me – every single solitary penny,” he added. “And by the way governor, because I work here – there’s a whole bunch of people that work for me and benefit because I do two shows. And I guess maybe some of them will be out of work, governor. I’m sure you’ll take care of them.”
Glenn Beck made the same threat, and these declarations serve the effort well to hold Cuomo accountable. I’m not so certain that packing bags for friendlier pastures would be the best response, though. There are lots of good reasons to leave, but Cuomo should be the least of those described above. While it’s not terribly attractive to stay in New York, an exodus of conservatives would mean ceding the field to Cuomo and his angry, immoderate governance. We need to be missionaries in the field, not retreating back to the fortresses.
Update: My colleague Peter Weber at The Week disagrees that Alonso’s firing was a form of blacklisting — although he does agree that it was “dumb”:
Hounding Alonso to quit the production was dumb, though. Debra Saunders at the San Francisco Chronicle is right that while her critics have every legal right to boycott the show and Lopez would have had the right to fire Alonso, “in a tolerant society that values open debate, critics don’t go after someone’s acting career because they want to muzzle her point of view.” Saunders is also correct to note that on the issue at hand, immigration, Alonso’s views aren’t as conservative as Donnelly’s.
It’s also a little self-defeating to try to limit the audience for any production of The Vagina Monologues — the show’s powerful message against sexual abuse and domestic violence and for women’s empowerment only has an impact if people see it, and the more viewers of whatever political persuasion, the better for the people trying to get that message out. Alonso tells Kelly that the play is “fun,” but it’s a message she obviously believes in, too.
But Saunders — and Ed Morrissey, and The American Conservative‘s Rod Dreher, and a bunch of less persuasive conservative writers — are wrong to try to make this out as some sort of reverse “Hollywood blacklist.” It’s not. It’s local activism — the same sort “Miami groups did when artists perceived as pro-Castro wanted to perform in Miami,” notes Lydia Chávez at Mission Local.
The attempt to fire Robertson wasn’t “local activism,” though, and while the effort in Miami was debatable, it also wasn’t aimed at a widespread domestic political movement, either. Nor was it in Cuomo’s case. Be sure to read all of Peter’s essay, and mine too.
Update: Michael Gerson writes that James Madison is spinning in his grave:
Academic liberals tend to regard universities as “our place,” in which others may stay as long as they behave. Now Cuomo has applied this attitude to the whole of the Empire State. From a provost, this is a violation of academic freedom. From a government official, it is an attack on genuine pluralism.
Cuomo is clearly frustrated with opposition to elements of his social agenda (his abortion rights expansion bill was blocked last summer). His life would be easier without a vocal minority of critics. So he is telling various Catholic bishops and priests, Republican politicians and conservative groups that their opinions are outside the norms of state politics. Cuomo has reached an advanced stage of political polarization: regarding one’s democratic opponents as unfit for democracy. I imagine the feeling will now (in some quarters) be returned. And so the spiral continues — sometimes leftward, sometimes rightward, ever downward.
While James Madison would not be surprised, he would not approve. “In all cases where a majority are united by a common interest or passion,” he warned, “the rights of the minority are in danger.” A majority, he argued, can easily become a “faction,” seeking “illicit advantage.” This is dangerous in a democracy, not only because the rights of individuals are important but also because diversity of opinion balances factions against each other. Madison hoped that U.S. leaders would help check the passions of factions rather than inciting them for political advantage, so that “reason, justice and truth can regain their authority over the public mind.”
Cuomo speaks in Albany; Madison spins at Montpelier.
And now Cuomo is spinning, too, trying to argue that he didn’t say what he said.