I don’t mean to alarm the good people of New York, but it’s important that they understand we are living under a dictatorship — with no end in sight.
Who’s the autocrat in question? Why, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of course. Perhaps because his father was governor before him, Cuomo may have grown up thinking of himself as crown prince and now fancies himself a king with unquestioned authority. But the ultimate blame falls squarely on a state Legislature that has now abdicated its duties for the better part of six months.
Back in March, our lawmakers in Albany used a public-health statute to hand the governor nearly unchecked power. The idea was that the state executive must have broader-than-usual authority to tackle a crisis. But a supposedly interminable emergency is an invitation to endless abuse of emergency authority.
As Rensselaer County Executive and former Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin told me, “You’ve got to be able to address the emergency. This is no longer an emergency. We’re well past where we were in March, April and May.”
Indeed. And yet King Cuomo is still issuing diktats with absolutely no check on his power. Half of them don’t even make sense. This week, he tweeted that wearing a mask is not optional. What does that even mean? That he signed an executive order? Or is his itchy Twitter finger just making up laws on social media? And who is enforcing this? Are the police going to start arresting people for literally showing their faces? Does anyone have any idea?
Meanwhile, this week we learned that pay increases for 80,000 civil servants have once again been deferred by Cuomo. Perhaps that’s necessary amid the lockdown-induced budget crunch. But you know who is scheduled to get a big, fat raise? Unless deferred, Cuomo’s own will jump by $71,000. It’s good to be the king.
Yes, there is a time limit on these emergency powers. They last one year and so would expire of natural causes in six months or so. But can we really take six more months of this? Shouldn’t we, by right, have the government we voted for right now?
Individual legislators might for whatever reason feel compelled to hand over their powers semi-permanently. But here’s the thing: That power doesn’t ultimately belong to the Legislature in our system of government — it belongs to us, the people of New York, a people now crushed under the despotism of a petty tyrant who gives himself raises as tens of thousands of small businesses close forever under his irrational lockdown orders.
As New Yorkers take to the polls to elect state assemblymen and senators this fall, one question should be front and center: Will you do your job, Mr. Would-Be Lawmaker? Will you, you know, legislate?
Understand: El Comandante from Queens is in this for the long haul. He now says he won’t trust a vaccine approved by the federal government, this after months of lectures about trusting the science. Instead, he wants his own experts to judge the drug. And guess who gets to remain the unchecked emperor while that process plays out?
Never in the history of this state has a governor wielded this much power for so long. If Cuomo wanted to force you to tie his shoes right now under penalty of fine or arrest, he could do it — perfectly legally, too. OK, maybe I’m slightly exaggerating. But consider the fact that Cuomo has the authority to ban church attendance — which is a constitutional right, one of the bases for the founding of this nation and among the first rights secured by the Bill of Rights.
This is how the Empire State is being governed at the moment, not as a democracy, but one-man rule by the same governor whose malfeasance resulted in the horrific mass senicide of the nursing homes.
One of the fundamental dangers of a crisis is that we lose sight of very basic things, like not being ruled indefinitely by a power-hungry autocrat. New Yorkers need to wake up, as do our lawmakers — and I use that term generously, as lately, the only “law” they’ve enacted is that Cuomo can do whatever the hell he wants.
At this point the crisis is no longer the pandemic. The crisis is the governor and his enablers. It is time for New York to get its legitimate government back.
David Marcus is The Federalist’s New York correspondent. Twitter: @BlueBoxDave