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.

Last Friday, in a public radio interview, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered the sort of potted analysis of the national Republican Party one would expect from an MSNBC talk show. But he went a bit further. After nodding to the fact that, historically, the New York state Republican Party has been the most ideologically gelded of the breed (it is the birthplace of Rockefeller Republicanism, after all), Cuomo proclaimed that "extreme conservatives" have "no place in the state of New York."

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."

As my National Review colleague Kathryn Lopez notes, this is an extraordinary evolution from the time when Mario Cuomo occupied the governor's mansion. The elder Cuomo pioneered the notion that politicians could be personally pro-life while in all other ways pro-choice. In his famous (infamous to some) 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame, he advised the Roman Catholic Church to be "realistic" on abortion in the same way the church had been in the 19th century on the issue of slavery.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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