SYRACUSE – The governor of New York says that some people who hold particular political views “have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
The statement is in a radio interview with WCNY of Syracuse during a discussion of members – including state legislators – of the major political party to which the governor does not belong. The statement is at 0:09.42 of www.wcny.org/jan-17-2014-gov-cuomo-comptroller-dinapoli-bill-hammond-susan-lerner.
Much of the commentary on the New York governor’s statement that some people who hold particular political views “have no place” in New York has focused on which major political party is which, and on what the political views are. However, that misses the bigger picture.
It is wrong for anyone to believe that any people holding particular political views “have no place” in New York, or anywhere else in this country.
It is especially wrong for an elected official to believe this, regardless of:
Who the elected official is.
Where the elected official is from.
The political party to which the elected official belongs.
What the particular political views are, and
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the elected official’s views.
It is especially wrong for the head of an executive branch to believe this, because the executive branch enforces law, and the belief reflects disrespect – to put it mildly – for freedom of thought.
The governor’s staff later clarified that the governor was talking only about candidates, and only about candidates of the major political party to which the governor does not belong.
The clarification is not an improvement.
Regardless of political-party affiliation, candidates are current or prospective elected officials. They are in unique positions to agree or disagree with the governor and do something about it. It in effect squelches dissent to say candidates disagreeing with the governor on any issue “have no place” in New York.
It is wrong for any governor or gubernatorial staff to believe this. Never mind that New York’s constitution gives the state government no power to enforce this. Never mind that any such power would violate the First Amendment.
But it gets worse: In effect according to the clarification, such candidates “have no place” in New York only if they belong to the major political party to which the governor does not belong.
So if candidates disagree with the governor on the issues he names yet belong to the same major political party as he, then they still “have” a “place” in New York.
But if they belong to the other major political party, then they “have no place” in New York.
This is just plain wrong. Everyone should be welcome in New York.
West Ellicott resident Randy Elf is in Syracuse to address First Amendment rights to political speech at an event jointly sponsored by the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society.