New York State of Mind: Illiberal Liberal Values
by Jonah Goldberg
On paper, "liberal intolerance" is something of an oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp," "loyal opposition" or "conspicuous absence." But what makes oxymorons funny is that they are real things. There are jumbo shrimp. Absences can be conspicuous, opponents can be loyal, and liberals can be staggeringly and myopically intolerant.
Recently, in a public radio interview, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered the sort of potted analysis of the national
Who are extreme conservatives? People who are "right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay."
It's an interesting -- and repugnant -- tautology: Extremists hold extreme views, and we can identify extreme views by the fact they are held by extremists.
Of course, Cuomo frames the matter to his benefit. Opposing same-sex marriage -- the mainstream Democratic position not long ago -- is now anti-gay. Being in favor of gun rights is pro-assault weapon (whatever that means).
Most vexing and revealing, however, is that Cuomo doesn't even bother to wrap opposition to abortion in scary adjectives. Simply believing in a right to life is extremist, and such extremists have "no place in the state of New York." Cuomo claims that he was being taken out of context. He was talking about "extreme" Republican politicians, not average citizens. Fair enough.
Still, given that Cuomo is the scion of one of the most famously Catholic families in America, it's a pretty remarkable statement.
Imagine how much smoke would emanate from the liberal outrage machine if, say, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that "extremist" Democrats who support gun control or oppose gay marriage or abortion rights "have no place in the great state of Texas."
"It is a mark of contemporary liberalism's commitment to abortion," Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in his book, "
As many pro-lifers suspected, being "personally opposed" to abortion but supportive of it in every legal and political way was always something of a rhetorical safe harbor rather than a serious intellectual position. In the time span of one generation, as the political climate became more supportive of abortion -- as it has in New York, thanks in part to the diligent work of the "personally" pro-life Cuomos -- the once-safe harbor of personal opposition to abortion is closed, at least rhetorically.
Of course, liberal intolerance isn't rhetorical or limited to hot-button issues; it is woven into mainstream liberal policymaking.
New York City recently banned the use of e-cigarettes indoors as yet another "anti-tobacco" measure (in the words of
And it's not just policymaking either. Liberalism has a culture all its own. From cities like New York; Madison, Wis.; and San Francisco to countless college campuses in between, that culture can produce people as judgmental as the old Church Lady character from "Saturday Night Live." They'll be judgmental about different things, to be sure, but every bit as intolerant.
Tolerating opposing views and lifestyles is an abstract liberal value when politics demand it (which is why Cuomo will have a very hard time if he wants to run for president of a nation that doesn't see eye to eye with him). But given a free hand, liberal intolerance all too often ceases to be an abstract oxymoron and becomes a lived reality.
Article: Copyright ©, Tribune Content Agency.
"New York State of Mind: Illiberal Liberal Values"