If he had his way, New York governor Andrew Cuomo would do to the Constitution what he’s already done to the elderly of his state. This week, he signed a bill banning the sale of “hate symbols” such as the Confederate flag, swastikas, and “white supremacist” imagery on state property. Of course, neither Cuomo nor the state legislature is empowered to decide what constitutes “hate symbols,” much less selectively ban them — even if New Yorkers had any interested in selling these symbols on state property, which doesn’t seem to be the case. But all of this is just virtue-signaling, as the kids say: a way to get people who still believe in liberal values to sound like they’re defending ugly things like the Confederate flag rather than a neutral principle.
Then again, perhaps there’s familial confusion over the issue of speech rights among the Cuomos. You may remember Chris, who earned his law degree at Fordham, informing his followers that “hate speech is excluded from protection” in the Constitution. (It isn’t.) Now Andrew Cuomo, who earned his law degree at Albany Law School, argued that his ban would “safeguard New Yorkers from the fear-installing effects of these abhorrent symbols,” as if his bailiwick or anyone’s else’s in government is to protect you from seeing things you don’t like. If it were, nursing-home residents would be throwing copies of Cuomo’s book American Crisis into a raging bonfire.
“This country faces a pervasive, growing attitude of intolerance and hate — what I have referred to in the body politic as an American cancer,” Emmy-award winning Cuomo, quoting himself, says in his approval message. This is a wholly paranoid — or crassly cynical — view of American life, but also irrelevant. There is no “hate” exception to the Constitution just as there is no coronavirus exception.
Cuomo, whose great tolerance once led him to say that conservatives weren’t welcome in New York, was recently rebuffed by the Supreme Court for targeting the free religious expression of New York’s orthodox Catholics and Jews with his COVID diktats (the governor called the Supreme Court’s decision “irrelevant.”) Cuomo is a perfect illustration of why the state should never be empowered to adjudicate the limits of free expression. It is not difficult to imagine what an aspiring authoritarian like Cuomo, who regularly smears his political opponents as hatemongers, would do with such power.