Reprinted with permission from Absurdarama, March 15, 2021.
The current massive pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo illustrates the dire situation in which our culture and our country find themselves.
We have a Constitution and state constitutions and laws that establish how public officials should be selected, and removed. Under the U.S. and state constitutions, they are to be selected by free elections, for a fixed term of years. Those same constitutions and laws provide for how they may be removed, by impeachment or, in some states like California, by recall referendum.
Ours is not a parliamentary system, as in the United Kingdom, where a prime minister may be removed simply by losing a vote of confidence in, e.g., the House of Commons. Many believe our system is superior because it guarantees greater stability in government.
There is another way an elected leader may be removed from office, and that is if he or she is convicted of a crime and is sentenced to prison.
The current campaign to force Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign may lead to his impeachment, but is not likely to lead to his conviction and imprisonment for a crime.
Instead, he is the latest object of a phenomenon in the United States, and some other places, which seeks to bypass legal and constitutional processes to achieve the immediate objective of a frenzied mob, often made possible or strengthened through the internet and social media. Non-public and dark forces may be behind some of these campaigns.
In the United States, at least three different “mobs” have contributed to what is often termed “cancel culture”, the abuse of power to achieve goals without due process and without following legally-established procedures for determining the truth of allegations, and determining appropriate and proportionate sanctions for crimes or infractions that may be found to have occurred.
Due process and the rule of law allow anyone accused of a crime the right to confront witnesses (certain exceptions in sexual abuse cases may exist in some jurisdictions) and put on his or her witnesses to help ascertain the truth of an allegation, the right of the accused to speak in his or her defense before a lawfully-constituted body, and to enjoy several other rights.
In criminal matters, perhaps the most important defendant’s right is the presumption of innocence, until such time as the defendant may be convicted of an alleged crime.
A second is the constitutional protection against prosecution under any ex post facto laws, that is, one may not be prosecuted for actions or relationships that were not illegal before passage of a subsequent law.
A third protection is provided for, in both civil and criminal matters, through statutes of limitations. In criminal matters, these statutes seek to protect defendants against claims or allegations that are too old for reliable witness testimony to be given. Human memories are notoriously unreliable. These statutes require allegations and charges to be brought before the court while memories of witnesses, both for and against the defendant, are still fresh and not distorted by the passage of time.
These defendant’s rights are all based on the fundamental premise that illegal conduct must be specifically defined, as well as the potential penalties to which a defendant may be condemned if found guilty.
The rising crescendo of demands that Gov. Cuomo resign is directly related to the development of so-called “cancel culture” in the United States.
Do not heed pronouncements such as one heard on TV this morning: “I believe in due process, but Gov. Cuomo should resign, and should have already resigned some time ago.” The contradiction in this statement is so glaring that one is simply amazed by the lack of analytical self-awareness of the speaker.
This “cancel culture” is a mob culture, which appears to be the product of a combination of mob cultures that have developed, usually in conjunction with mobilization efforts facilitated by social media and the internet.
There are at least three components of this mob-action cancel culture.
The first has been the “Me-Too Movement”, whereby men have been denounced and forced to resign on the basis of an accumulation of allegations of “sexual misconduct”. In the process, the critical distinction between predatory sexual conduct–the coercion of a woman by a man to engage in sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct, on the one hand, and sexually inappropriate speech or other conduct (measured by contemporary standards), such as touching or verbal comments, on the other, has frequently been lost.
In particular, elements of what has become known as a sexually hostile workplace (civilly prohibited under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act) have become conflated with actions such as sexual coercion by a superior of a woman under a man’s authority.
There has also been a conflation of the penalties the mob seeks to impose.
The case of Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) is quite instructive on this point. Essentially, he was subjected to extreme pressures to resign by the “Me-Too” Movement, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), because he engaged in part of a skit both he and the alleged victim had performed before USO audiences on previous occasions. Before becoming a Senator, Franken was a comedian. He obviously was clowning around. Perhaps inappropriately, as the alleged victim was asleep.
Ceding to these pressures, and probably those on his family in particular, Sen. Al Franken resigned. As a result, the Democrats lost one of their best U.S. Senators, who had been caustic in his criticism of Donald Trump.
Garrison Keillor, former host of “Prairie Home Companion” for decades on NPR, and one of America’s most beloved radio personalities, wrote an Op-ed column in the Washington Post defending Franken. The “Me-Too” movement quickly went after him, and Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) promptly fired him, without any semblance of due process. They later tried to obscure this fact, but their efforts didn’t pass “the smell test”. Previous columns in the Post by Keillor had provided devastating critiques of Trump.
A second component of the mob culture has been the development of the anti-racist mob, which has demanded that statues be removed, university schools and buildings be renamed, people be fired, and anything they perceive as racist be immediately changed. The mob aspect is related to the demand for immediate action, outside of legal processes. Recently they succeeded in seuring of the firing of the lead reporter on Covid-19 for the New York Times, who had been with the newspaper since the mid-1970’s.
A third component of the “cancel culture” mob that has come into being has been the development of the censorship mob. This mob, whose origins lie in universities and colleges, gets excised over speech or books that they consider politically incorrect. Recent examples include the decision by the publishers of the Dr. Seuss books to stop publication of six books because they allegedly contained racist stereotypes, such as a drawing of a Chinese man with horizontal brush strokes for the eyes. Amazon has just announced that it will not sell books that deal with reprogramming LGTBQ persons.
What it all amounts to is censorship.
Ryan T. Anderson, “Amazon Won’t Let You Read My Book; An enterprising state attorney general might want to look into why it was withdrawn from sale now,” Wall Street Journal, >March 16, 202 1(6:40 pm ET).
This is not the occasion to examine in greater detail the issues related to the anti- racist mob and the censorship mob phenomena.
Often forgotten when a mob is clamoring for immediate action is the fact that we have a system of constitutions and laws that are set up and designed to resolve such disputes.
Officials are elected for fixed terms. They should not be hounded from office because of a crescendo of allegations which, unexamined in the proper legal setting and proceeding, in essence amount to mob action.
Legal processes should be observed.
The decisions of voters should be respected.
Allegations should be fully vetted by appropriate authorities and institutions.
If misconduct is found to have occurred, sanctions proportionate to the offense should be considered. In the case of Gov. Cuomo, for example, impeachment, censure, and defeat at the ballot box would be appropriate remedies if he is found to be guilty as charged. Moreover, the individuals making the accusations might sue him, or bring actions against him and his administration under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.
Legal procedures have existed in New York for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment, or a hostile work environment. These procedures exist not only to protect victims from sexual abuse and harassment, but also to protect those accused of misconduct from having their careers damaged or their lives ruined by accusations that don’t meet the necessary burdens of credibility and proof.
Finally, with respect to Gov. Cuomo, ask yourself, ”Who does this crescendo of allegations and mob demands for Cuomo’s resignation benefit?”
Democratic Senators and Congressmen and New York State Assembly members are showing themselves to be utterly unprincipled, and utterly hypocritical in attacking Republicans for not respecting the rule of law.
The Democrats, and their cancel culture mobs, are serving up a powerful cultural wedge issue for the Republicans to exploit.
The Democrats are showing the world that they can be just as unprincipled and hypocritical as the Republicans. Should they not stop and reflect on this point, before they join the mob?
They are also tearing down one of their own heroes, in the battle to meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo is a governor who had the courage to step before the cameras and tell New Yorkers, and the nation, the facts about the spread of Covid-19, what New York was doing about it, and what Trump was not doing about it–while Trump told monstrous lies and through sheer incompetence and wrongheadedness, contributed to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Cuomo held these news conferences, day after day, for a hundred days. For many of us, including this writer, his was a rare voice of sanity in a world, led by Trump, which seemed to have gone mad.
So, small-minded and cynical Democrats are now endorsing mob action and circumvention of rule-of-law procedures to not only ascertain the veracity of the allegations against Cuomo–including those concerning nursing home death statistics, but also the nature of the punishment that would be proportionate and appropriate for the alleged infractions, should he be found guilty as charged.
Who does that benefit?
The Moderator of the Abswurd