It happens at some point in many hot political debates: when things get particularly nasty, one side or the other will calm down, take a breath, and say that, of course, “reasonable people can disagree.”
Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be a lot of reasonable people on the side of banning carriage horses in Central Park.
But we do think it’s time to call out the rhetoric used by some of the anti-horse carriage advocates. Nothing seems to be out of bounds for them, from personal attacks (“Liam Neeson is an embarrassment to his own people and the human race”) to race-baiting, to accusations that the opposition is anti-Semitic. One New York Times report on the issue was deemed to be so flawed that it was compared to the paper’s reporting on weapons of mass destruction during the Iraq war.
The stridency of attacks reminds us of the darkest days of the anti-abortion debates, when clinics across the country were being protested or worse. Not only is there no room for debate, but anyone who disagrees must be crushed.
It’s no coincidence that as the anti-carriage rhetoric has become more extreme, support for the cause has started to wane. All of the city’s dailies have now editorialized for keeping the horses where they are, and Mayor de Blasio may well have a hard time carrying out his campaign pledge to ban them. Centrist political leaders simply aren’t willing to align themselves with the anti-carriage horse’s loonier fringe. (And for good reason: according to the Daily News, the FBI is investigating whether one anti-carriage group tried to extort Christine Quinn during her failed run for mayor.)
We understand how emotions can run high when it comes to the treatment of big, beautiful animals in the heart of America’s largest city. We can imagine a number of compelling arguments for why this tradition should end. Our problem is that we’re just not hearing them amidst all the noise.
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