As a lifelong New Yorker, I've always enjoyed the ideological diversity within our state. Growing up in Rochester, N.Y., and later moving to New York City and Westchester County, I have lived in both conservative and liberal enclaves. So when Gov. Andrew Cuomo seemingly proclaimed that "extreme conservatives" who are "right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay ... have no place in the state of New York" I was stunned.
After all, I have never heard a sitting governor say something so ideologically divisive (and yes, I've heard his response to the controversy -- and I do plan to address it later on).
And no, I'm not stunned by the fact that a partisan governor expressed disagreement with Republicans on key social issues; I'm surprised that Gov. Cuomo would tell a subset of the population that its adherents are not welcome in the state (whether they are political candidates or citizens) simply because they disagree with left-of-center policy positions.
On the gun issue, the vast majority of New York residents did agree with Cuomo as of early 2013 on banning "assault weapons and magazine clips of more than seven bullets." While the Sienna Research Institute found that 73 percent agreed with the ban, 26 percent did not.
So on this issue, Cuomo would potentially argue -- based on his quote -- that one-in-four voters (or at least the politicians who wish to represent them) "have no place in the state of New York."
The same goes for the "right to life" issue. As a reporter who covered the horrific Dr. Kermit Gosnell trial I have some pretty firm opinions on late-term abortion and the value of life in general. But my views aside, where are Americans on the issue?
In 2013, Gallup found that 48 percent of U.S. citizens call themselves "pro-life," while 45 percent distinguish themselves as pro-choice.
So did Cuomo mean that nearly half of the country isn't welcome in New York because ... that's not who New Yorkers are?
Gosh, I hope not (a separate poll released last year by a different group did find support among New Yorkers for reasonable abortion restrictions).
As for the "anti-gay" issue, it's tough to even understand what the governor meant. I'd first have to ask Cuomo how, exactly, he defines the term "anti-gay."
Someone who respectfully opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds? A bully? A Westboro protestor? Who, exactly, fits this description?
It's such a loaded word -- "anti-gay" -- one that can't be easily assessed unless we have a denotative definition from Cuomo to work with. But if we're going to go by the polls -- 59 percent of Americans believe that homosexuality is morally permissible, while 38 percent do not; 52 percent would vote for a federal law legalizing gay marriage and 43 percent would not.
So should 40 percent of the nation refrain from residing in New York (past polls of New York residents have shown majority support for gay marriage)?
Cuomo is claiming his comments were taken out of context. A statement from the governor's office explains: "If you read the transcript, it is clear that the Governor was making the observation that an extreme right candidate cannot win statewide because this is a politically moderate state (either moderate Republican or moderate Democratic)."
Regardless of whether he was speaking about candidates or citizens themselves, shouldn't the state be open to any and everyone? Shouldn't we embrace true diversity?
Cuomo says that's "not who New Yorkers are" when it comes to being pro-assault rifle, "anti-gay" and anti-abortion, but I know plenty of New Yorkers who fit that bill. If New York is truly a "liberal" and open place, then citizens and candidates of all stripes should be welcomed -- not only those who fall in line with one politician or party.
Read the complete transcript of Cuomo's interview with WCNY radio below and decide what he meant for yourself:
Yeah, I think that that is actually, I don’t think that that is right Susan. I think it is a very important point, but I don’t think it is that I’m less of a democrat, I think what you are seeing is, you have a schism within the Republican Party. You have the Republican Party searching for identity; they are searching to define their soul. That is what is going on. It is the Republican Party that is it a moderate party or is it a conservative party? That is what they are trying to figure out and it is very interesting because it is a mirror of what is going on in Washington, right? The gridlock is Washington is less about democrats and republicans. It is more about extreme republicans versus moderate republicans. And a moderate republican in Washington can’t figure out how to deal with the extreme republicans. And the moderate republicans are affair of the extreme conservative republicans in Washington in my opinion.
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.
Moderate republicans like in the Senate right now and control the senate, Moderate republicans have a place in this state. George Pataki was governor of this state as a moderate republican. But not as what you are hearing from them on the far right not this clash that you are getting from the quote unquote power brokers of the party now. We are right to life, we are pro assault weapon or anti-gay…Well that was planned anyway, I think he did that in reaction to the meets we were having. You know moderate republicans, I work with, moderate republicans passed my agenda, for the past three years. They want to criticize my record? My record was passed by the moderate republicans, so they are criticizing themselves and this really isn’t about me Susan. This is who are they? And who is going to win between the conservative republicans, the extremely conservative republicans and the moderately conservative republicans. And literally look at the issues that they pick, are we right to life or are we pro-choice? Well if you are right to life, that is your opinion and that’s your religious belief, that is fine but that is not the opinion of this state, which 70% are pro-choice in this state. “Well we are anti-gun control”, that is fine.