Who’s extremist now? - Macleans.ca

Who’s extremist now?

In a key election year, populist Republican-bashing is the trendy new tactic among Democratic hopefuls

Mike Segar / Reuters
Mike Segar / Reuters

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may be a Democrat, but he’s hardly what you’d call a liberal firebrand; he’s battled with teachers’ unions and other traditional allies of his party. So it was surprising when he gave a radio interview where he sounded like a very partisan Democrat indeed. In explaining why hard-right Republicans have no chance of winning a state-wide election, Cuomo declared: “If they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York. Because that is not who New Yorkers are.” The interview produced a ferocious backlash, with a shocked Republican state party chairman, Ed Cox, accusing Cuomo of “poisoning New York’s politics” with such partisan comments.

Though Cuomo quickly tried to clarify that he was only telling politicians, not individual New Yorkers, to get out of the state, it was, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “unusually divisive” rhetoric for the governor. And it suggested to some that he might be trying to stake out a position to the left of former New York senator Hillary Clinton as the 2016 presidential campaign approaches, though Clinton hasn’t even said yet whether she’s running.

Or maybe it’s just that with a populist mood in the air, Republican-bashing is becoming a more frequent tactic for the once-shy Democrats—especially in a mid-term election year, in which control of the Senate is at stake. That has led to an increasingly hostile tone in discussing their opponents. Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida who is now running for the same position as a Democrat, has a new book out subtitled How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP.

Another potential Clinton challenger, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, accused Republicans of being willing to leave people “with no money to put food on the table, to put a roof over their heads, to take care of their children.” This focus might help distract from the declining popularity of President Barack Obama (last week, his approval rating was 46 per cent) by placing the focus squarely on the even less popular Republicans.

And even if the new tone doesn’t work, it could have one advantage for the left: Fox News host and conservative talk-show star Sean Hannity said he was so offended by Cuomo’s remarks that he’s considering leaving New York and moving to Florida or Texas.

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