When I moved to Brooklyn from Michigan over twenty years ago I registered to vote as an Independent, unaware that doing so would prevent me from voting in almost all crucial primaries. Though I came to that realization soon afterward, I felt such intense loyalty to my conservative principles that I simply could not bring myself to switch party affiliations and register as a Democrat.
Many years later I see I was not mistaken in my belief that a name does matter, and certainly a political name matters politically. Though I boxed myself out of participating in almost all local primaries, I did feel like a New Yorker when it came time to vote in elections. And like other New York conservatives – we do exist – I was even able to celebrate an occasional Republican victory in this largely Democratic state.
But I have now been told by my governor that because of my beliefs I “have no place in the state of New York.”
In a recent tirade on a public radio station in Albany, Governor Cuomo lambasted New York conservatives in one broad stroke. While lashing out against New Yorkers who oppose his SAFE Act, a draconian gun-control bill rammed through the New York legislature soon after the Newtown massacre, Cuomo targeted all Republicans and conservatives as the enemy.
“Who are they?” Cuomo demanded. “Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
Well, I believe in the right to bear arms and the right to life, and I oppose gay marriage. I am also a New Yorker. Though I always knew I was in the minority, am I now persona non grata? According to New York’s governor – and to our new mayor, Bill de Blasio – apparently I am.
When asked to comment on the governor’s inflammatory remarks, de Blasio responded, “I stand by that 100 percent…. He was absolutely right to say what he said.”
Are these local politicians taking their cue from their national counterparts? It was candidate Barack Obama in 2008 who infamously labeled blue-collar voters “bitter” as they “cling to guns or religion.” Since then it seems the tone of the rhetoric has become even shriller.
Even jaded conservatives are used to being sidelined because of our right-wing outlook. However, to have proponents of multiculturalism morph into advocates of monoculturalism where conservatives are concerned is dangerous indeed. The liberal banner of diversity is never so threatening as when that agenda of diversification turns inward.
For religious Christians and Jews in New York, this is particularly alarming. A majority of Jewish New Yorkers voted for Cuomo and, more recently, de Blasio. Not a few of those Jewish voters were Orthodox and hold the same conservative social policy positions as “extreme conservatives.” And they are no doubt surprised at the speed with which such contempt for their views was hurled in their faces by the mayor so soon after they helped elect him.
This rhetorical unrolling of the welcome mat for New Yorkers who disagree with the liberal agenda has caused many of us to question our place in the state and city. And the outrageous verbal affront translates into facts on the ground for many religious Christians, as Cuomo is pushing for such a massive expansion of access to abortion in New York, including the lifting of restrictions on third-trimester abortions, that the organization Democrats for Life of America has called the proposed bill “the most sweeping abortion legislation in the nation.”
About the Author: Sara Lehmann, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, was formerly an editor at a major New York publishing house.
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