We were taken by recent news reports concerning those two paragons of progressivism, our very own Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill De Blasio,
The governor made news last week when he announced that he would push to repeal New York’s death penalty law in solidarity with Pope Francis who announced that the death penalty is “inadmissible” under all circumstances.
According to a statement from the Vatican, the pope approved a change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church – which is the repository of official Catholic teachings – to reflect the notion that capital punishment constitutes an “attack” on human dignity. Heretofore, the catechism taught that capital punishment was permissible “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human life against the unjust aggressor.”
But there is a problem here. In 2004, the New York State Court of Appeals declared the death penalty law unconstitutional and therefore non-enforceable. So for all practical purposes, there has been no death penalty in New York since then. So when the governor said he would act because the pope did, he really was just acting symbolically – and mixing church and state while he was at it.
By contrast, at great political sacrifice, the late Governor Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father, opposed the death penalty, citing several principled arguments, including that it was not an effective deterrent. The fact that he himself was a Catholic was irrelevant to the debate.
The current governor’s action leaves nothing to the imagination. One wonders, though, why an aspirant to the Oval Office would raise this wholly unnecessary issue. In his campaign for the presidency, John F. Kennedy went to great lengths to disabuse voters of the notion that he would do the pope’s bidding due to his Catholic faith. We are at a loss, therefore, to understand how defering to the pope’s teachings burnishes one’s credentials with the progressive crowd.
And then there is the latest revelation about Mayor De Blasio, who fancies himself the Progressive in Chief. It will be recalled that the mayor proved to be indifferent to the plight of low-income tenants in New York City’s public housing who had inadequate heat and hot water and whose children were put at risk because of NYCHA’s failure to adequately test for lead paint in violation of federal law.
But what made news last week was the revelation that even as the mayor was arguing that the rigorous admissions test for New York City’s elite high schools, the Specialized High School Admissions Test, be abandoned to promote racial diversity – blacks and Hispanics make up 70 percent of the public school population but only 10 percent of elite schools – and because they were not reliable predictors of student performance, he knew otherwise. Just the other day, in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by the group Chalkbeat, the city was forced to release a 2013 study showing a “strong positive predictive relationship between the SHSAT and high school academic achievement.”
If the mayor sincerely wants to change the racial balance in elite schools in a responsible way, he obviously has to take measures to improve elementary and middle school education for black and Hispanic students. Otherwise these students will be doomed to fail in elite schools or the curricula will have to be scholastically diminished, in which case all students suffer. And this is an inescapable truth that even a progressive should be able to understand.