One of the problems with the worship of pure government power is that dissent becomes increasingly difficult to tolerate. Power requires obedience. The process of cultivating this resource runs afoul of the Law of Diminishing Returns, as it becomes more difficult to secure absolute submission to the almighty State. When government is small, it makes few demands on its citizens, and they have plenty of room to run around doing their own thing. But when government intrudes into every aspect of life with a coercive agenda, it soon reaches the point where it can’t even handle disagreement any more.
That’s where the American Left is now. Its top politicians are increasingly comfortable with the rhetoric, and practice, of totalitarian intolerance. You shouldn’t be allowed to disagree with them, or oppose them effectively within the political system. They have decided what The People truly want and need. If you disagree, you are an Enemy of the People. You’re not even allowed to vote on political control of many important things any more, most notably health care. Those arguments are settled forever. Further political contest is off the table.
One especially lurid aspect of the Left’s totalitarian tendencies is their growing irritation with small-r republican representation. Enemies of the People shouldn’t have effective legislative representation, right? They just use it to gum up the works, working on behalf of greedy and “extreme” interests to thwart the noble agendas of benevolent dictators who want to Get Stuff Done. Why should the forces of regression and gridlock have any voice in Congress or state legislatures, when there’s so much the Leviathan State needs to do, and every item on its checklist is an emergency?
Which brings us to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been railing that all dissidents to his glorious agenda are “extremists” who really ought to get the hell out of his state. The Governor’s office is currently engaged in a combination of pushback and walkback – the most complicated dance since the lambada! – after the New York Post called out his intolerant rhetoric:
Gov. Cuomo has a message for conservative Republicans ??? you don???t belong in New York.
Cuomo said Friday that members of the GOP with ???extreme??? views are creating an identity crisis for their party and represent a bigger worry than Democrats such as himself.
???Their problem isn???t me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves,??? the governor said on Albany???s The Capitol Pressroom radio show.
???Who are they? Right to life, pro-assault weapons, anti-gay ??? if that???s who they are, they have no place in the state of New York because that???s not who New Yorkers are.???
He added that moderate Republicans, such as those in the state Senate, ???have a place in their state.???
So Time’s Man of the Year, noted pro-lifer Pope Francis, is not welcome in New York? When did the Governor’s office become the proper place for a blowhard who bellows deportation threats at dissenting citizens? Imagine if a certain other Governor from the tri-state area, who is presently the focus of intense media attention, said something like this.
Governor Cuomo’s office tried to spin this by insisting that Cuomo was merely giving advice on political strategy to Republicans. Evidently he’s very worried that they might waste their time running an “extremist” candidate, with extremism defined as “anyone who disagrees with Andrew Cuomo.”
But as Newsbusters notes, Cuomo’s people attempted to buttress their claim by releasing a substantially redacted transcript of the radio show in question, edited to make the Governor sound far more reasonable than he actually was. They’re basically asking you to imagine some qualifying phrases that would make it clear he means “the State Senate” when he says “the state of New York,” and he’s trying to give opposing politicians the bum’s rush, while holding nothing but love and tolerance in his boundless heart for their supporters.
Even if you’re feeling charitable enough to accept Team Cuomo’s spin, he’s still saying that people who hold views he defines as “extreme” should have no voice in their government. He’s generously wiling to let them physically reside in his state, provided they meekly submit to the dominant political agenda. The wrongness of this mindset would be immediately apparent – and the subject of coast-to-coast media outrage – if any Republican said it about Democrats, not just in a single testy throwaway line, but as a repeated talking point in a radio interview.
There’s also the matter of the extremely offensive and lazy way Cuomo demonizes his opponents, whose positions he apparently cannot bear to state clearly. “Pro-assault weapon?’ “Anti-gay?” Why, certainly, citizen, you’re allowed the freedom to hold any views you like… provided you don’t take a position the State has defined as hateful, of course. And unfortunately for you, the State has decided that some key elements of its agenda are associated directly with certain people, so opposing those ideas is hateful. But keep exercising your political freedom, comrades! Eventually you’re bound to find some valid dissenting positions that haven’t been certified as hateful. Yet.
As it stands, the bulk of New York media has its hands firmly clapped over its ears, pretending not to hear the latest foolishness from a Governor who imposes gun laws he doesn’t even remotely understand. I just accidentally outlawed the weapons carried by police officers? Whoopsie!
The editorial board of the New York Post fired back at Cuomo, busting out the World’s Smallest Violin to accompany his complaints about misrepresented commentary:
In a free society, the way to resolve polarizing issues is by debating them openly and trying to persuade your fellow citizens you are right. It???s not to suggest people keep their views to themselves. American history, moreover, is replete with causes ??? civil rights, for one ??? that initially were unpopular but ended up prevailing.
The governor takes offense because he says his views have been mischaracterized. We wonder how those on the receiving end feel about his characterizations.
Is it fair, for example, to label those who have doubts about gun control as ???pro-assault-weapon???? Does favoring traditional marriage mean you are ???anti-gay???? And are pro-lifers trying to impose a ???religious belief,??? or might their position reflect their conclusion about when human life begins?
If these conservatives find Gov. Cuomo???s language about having no place in New York politics troubling, maybe it???s because it comes at a time when other Americans likewise tagged as ???extremists??? for their politics found themselves singled out for special treatment by the IRS.
The Cuomo flap is one colorful episode in a larger, darker story about the closing of the American political system. The list of things we’re not allowed to vote against grows longer, and since political judgments are now routinely enforced with centralized political power, the list of manufactured “consensus” decisions we can escape from grows shorter. A skilled politician backed by organized activists groups doesn’t have to get anywhere near 50 percent support from the American people to impose such a “consensus,” to say nothing of judgments imposed by bureaucrats we never get to vote against at all.
At least it remains possible for New Yorkers with serious convictions that run counter to the imperial Governor’s will to accept his invitation to escape. Perhaps this isn’t the best time for the ruling class of New York to encourage people to pack up their tax money, and business ventures, and skedaddle.
Update: It’s not unique to Cuomo, or Democrats, but this rhetorical tendency to declare political positions as the pure and unanimous Will of the People is really disturbing. A modest percentage of eligible voters troop to the polls, someone puts together a coalition that gets them into office, often with less than half of the total vote… and now he’s going to declare what “everyone wants,” what “no one” can tolerate?
We have grown far too comfortable with that kind of talk. It’s a symptom of arrogance. A properly humble political class genuinely respects dissent, which means acknowledging that very few policies have commanding majority support, especially at the national level… and even heavily outnumbered minority opposition has inalienable rights worthy of deference. Our Ruling Class almost never talks that way, unfortunately, because declaring what “everyone wants” leads to discussion of what everyone should be forced to do.