A Letter to Governor Cuomo from Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin
I write you today to express my disappointment upon hearing the comments you made Friday, January 17th on the Capitol Pressroom. Specifically, I am referring to your statement regarding those who you deem to be “extreme conservatives” having “no place in the state of New York.” Demagogic rhetoric like that has no place in the state of New York from anyone, and certainly not from the chief executive of the state.
You have clearly redefined ‘extreme’ to suit your narrative. What you’ve decided is “extreme” are in reality mainstream positions held by millions of New Yorkers and Americans, and they are not just Conservatives. Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents can be counted among those you labeled as “extreme.”
You stated that those who support the traditional definition of marriage are somehow “anti-gay.” Your conclusion is so ill-informed that it defies description. Millions of New Yorkers believe in traditional marriage and millions more support gay marriage. People that support the traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman are not anti-gay any more than those that support gay marriage are “anti-heterosexual.” How is support for traditional marriage an “extreme” position? Is it your assertion for example, that Pope Francis or Cardinal Dolan have “no place in the state of New York” because of their belief and the belief of millions of Catholics that marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman? Further, it isn’t just Catholics, Governor. Jews, Protestants, Baptists, Muslims, etc., all have members of their faith that believe the same thing. They also, I assume, have members that believe in gay marriage. The point, Governor, is that those views are held by millions of people in New York, all of whom have a place here.
Regarding those who support the 2nd amendment you asked; “Are they pro-assault weapon?” That is a political term coined by anti-gun progressives. In an unprecedented show of opposition to a bill you jammed through the legislature, over 50 counties, Sheriff’s, over 300 towns and villages, the VA, millions of New Yorkers and every single police officer I know have opposed the SAFE Act. They are not extremist’s Governor, they are our fellow citizens.
The contempt in your voice was evident as you said “Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay?” Millions of New Yorkers believe in the sanctity of life just as millions are pro-choice. While there is obvious disagreement between the two beliefs, why is the pro-life position suddenly an extreme one when 48% of Americans state that they are pro-life? 35% of self-described Democrats identify themselves as pro-life. I ask you Governor which is the more extreme position: Those who believe in the sanctity of life, or a Governor pushing a bill that would allow the abortion of full term, viable fetuses that could be performed by non-physicians? Which one of those would a very large majority of people find to be the more extreme position?
You clearly have a talent for redefining words and issues to suit your agenda. Those you agree with are “common sense” while anyone who opposes you is an “extremist.” Have we really arrived at a point where we have a Governor so contemptuous of debate or opposition, that you find it necessary to demonize the very people you serve?
Rather than attack those who disagree with you Governor Cuomo, perhaps you should attack the real “extremes” that our citizens deal with every day under your administration. Here are a few, but certainly not all. Since November, New Yorkers have watched their electric rates almost double; according to the US Department of Energy, New Yorkers paid the highest electricity rates at the end of 2013 of all states in the mainland US. Yet, I haven’t heard you decry the extreme regulatory climate cultivated by your own appointees that’s made New Yorkers pay more than 50% the national average to light their homes?
Absent the reforms that were promised at the time the tax cap was created, our school and property taxes continue to climb. New York is more secure than ever in its position as having the highest such taxes in the nation, your rhetoric aside. Will you speak out against the extreme unfairness of the unfunded mandates with the same gusto that you attack the views of Catholics, Orthodox Jews and Muslims?
New York presently sits near the top of all the wrong lists. Taxes, spending, corruption, and cost of living--just to name a few while we are at the bottom of the list on business climate, economic and personal freedoms among others. Unlike the religious and political views of private citizens, these are things that Albany actually has the ability to change and while you’ve paid lip-service to them, you’ve done virtually nothing to change any of them.
Perhaps you should address the “extreme” exodus of our friends, family, co-workers, and businesses as they escape from New York for better opportunities, lower taxes and more freedom? The fleeing of New York has accelerated during your tenure.
There are five months remaining in the legislative session. That’s plenty of time to lower property taxes, make New York more affordable and help the private sector create jobs. You are obviously frustrated by the fact that each of your major social policies has met bipartisan opposition, but that doesn’t excuse you choosing to fight who you describe as “extremists” instead of fighting the extreme problems you were elected to fix.
Rather than you taking responsibility and personally explaining your statements, your staff is claiming that your words were taken out of context. I listened repeatedly. They were not taken out of context. They were spoken by you and the meaning was clear. Your staff is claiming that you were talking not about citizens but about political candidates. For the record; I think that explanation is laughable. But, even if true, it is as frighteningly arrogant as you saying that citizens have no place in New York. Are you really that fearful of honest debate and opposing viewpoints? Is it your contention Governor that a pro-life, pro-2nd amendment, pro-traditional marriage candidate, or any combination of those, has no place running for office? I shudder to think of the state you described during that interview. There are countries around the world where elected officials blindly follow their leader. Those countries are not the United States.
New York has always been a tapestry of humanity, welcoming to all people regardless of their nationality, faith, culture or beliefs. Those differences make us who we are as a state and a nation. Contrary to what you seem to think, that is the beauty and the bold colors of New York and America. It is what makes us unique and strong.
While I disagree with progressive philosophy regularly, I would never say that there is no place in New York for progressives. Nor would I say there is no place for you in New York. There is. But if you seek to demonize those who disagree with you by saying that they don’t belong in this great state, that place is not the Governor’s office.
I shouldn’t need to remind you that as Governor it is your duty to serve all of the people of this state and not just those who agree with you.
Assemblyman Steven F. McLaughlin