With Juneteeth now a national holiday to commemorate freedom for America’s enslaved people, and race relations still a potent force in American politics, New York’s Conservative Party has staked out its ground on the far right of the political spectrum. Detailed in its 2022 National Affairs platform, the Conservatives declare systemic racism is a lie. Racial discrimination in New York is rare. And the state’s most vocal critics of racial discrimination are portrayed as money-grubbing loudmouths undeserving of respect.
“The loudest shouts of discrimination come from those demanding cash and standing they have not earned as an honest and fair merit evaluation,” said the party platform, which was ratified in June at the party’s annual convention in Greenwood Lake.
The platform adds that government is a necessary evil that can provide for the common defense − either foreign or domestic − but also carries the ultimate power of control over people, through government regulations.
“It offers opportunities for ambitious power-obsessed individuals to acquire power that can be used to subjugate and enslave ordinary people,” the platform states.
Since its founding in 1962, the Conservatives have allied themselves with New York’s Republican Party, with most every GOP statewide and Congressional candidate also running this year on the Conservative line. Conservatives are New York’s third largest party, with 163,000 enrolled voters, just 1.3% of those enrolled.
The remarks about race appear in the party’s 12-page platform, which was issued Aug. 13 following the party’s National Affairs Issues Conference. The document also assails journalists who “arrogantly lie to put and keep their liberal friends in power,” embraces former Donald Trump’s MAGA revolution, and declares the traditional heterosexual family is the “essential foundation of a free, moral and prosperous society.”
But the party can deliver more than its members on election day, with voters enrolled in no party as well as some Democrats casting ballots for Republicans who also appear on the Conservative line. In 2018, GOP gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro received 254,000 votes on the Conservative line − 11% of his total.
Over the past 10 years, the party’s statewide enrollments have grown 8%, compared to just 1% for Republicans, 13% for Democrats and 22% enrolled in no party, according to the state Board of Elections.
Putnam County Conservative Chairman Jimmy Maxwell said Conservatives have long been opposed to overreach by government regulators.
“The less government, the better as far as conservatives are concerned,” said Maxwell.
The characterization of government regulations as enslavement comes as historians from Philipsburg Manor in Tarrytown to the University of Virginia have embraced the terminology of “enslaved people” to describe those individuals bought and sold as property during more than 200 years of our nation’s history.
New York Conservative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar said the state and federal governments have enslaved New Yorkers with its strict public health regulations and restrictions on carrying concealed firearms in public.
“It’s not just the masks,” said Kassar. “It could be the vaccinations where you could lose your job if you didn’t get the vaccinations. It could be a variety of these points which take a certain level of your freedom away. We are equating the lack of freedom with the expression, enslavement, but I would say to you that different people would have a different sense on the word.”
NAACP Mid-Hudson Regional Director Wilbur Aldridge said the party’s comparison of slavery to government public health and safety regulations is demeaning.
“The mask mandate pertained to a virus that was killing people − it was protective, not enslavement, not even dictatorial,” said Aldridge, of West Haverstraw. “I think that kind of language is dangerous because anything that we are required to do for law and order could be viewed in that context of his statement.”
The party platform is pro-police and opposes programs that shift public safety funding from police budgets to mental health professionals and social service workers. According to the Conservative platform, individuals who support such programs and believe that race plays a part in the criminal justice system weren’t worthy of serving in a public office.
States the platform: “Anyone who favors such a program and thinks the criminal justice system is racist is unfit for any public office.”
Kassar said the Conservative Party does not believe discrimination is widespread in New York.
“We are pushing back at what seems to be a cry that this country is pushing off of a racist view of the world,” said Kassar. “We just don’t believe it. We don’t believe this country is racist.”
Kassar said the platform section that rails against the critics of discrimination was inspired by the activism of the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of Harlem-based National Action Network, and host of the Politics Nation show on MSNBC.
“We feel that there are groups, whether it be like an Al Sharpton or others, that make a business out of attempting to create an atmosphere that is not really reflective of where we believe that the nation is,” said Kassar. “So we are pushing back at what seems to be a cry that this country is pushing off of a current racist view of the word. We just don’t believe it. We don’t believe this country is racist.”
Sharpton’s press team did not respond to requests for comment.
Aldridge said the Conservative Party platform’s disparaging remarks about individuals protesting racial discrimination in itself reveals the party’s own racial intolerance.
“When people speak up about discrimination, they are looking for justice, not cash,” he said. “Their cry is because they feel they’ve been injured, and somebody has to pay for creating that injury.”
PHOTO: New York Conservative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar backed the party’s platform, which says that the loudest voices against discrimination come from people seeking money and respect that they don’t deserve.