On January 28, Mike Long, Chairman of the Conservative Party of New York, announced he would retire from the post he has held for thirty years.
The 79-year-old Long is the quintessential “Street Corner Conservative.”
Born in Brooklyn, Michael Long returned home in 1961 after a three-year stint in the Marine Corps a fervent anti-Communist ready to lead the home guard.
The political epiphany in Long’s life took place when he attended the great Goldwater Rally at Madison Square Garden in 1964. The enthusiasm at the rally was infectious, and Long decided then and there he had to be actively involved in politics.
Long became a member of the fledging Conservative Party that was founded in 1962. In 1965, he took over as chairman of the Cypress Hills Conservative Club and became a worker in William F. Buckley’s famous campaign for Mayor of New York City.
He also had a key role in helping elect James L. Buckley — who ran solely on the Conservative Party line — to the U.S. Senate in 1970.
That election cemented a coalition of inner-city ethnic Democrats and rural and suburban Republicans, all of whom were disgusted with excessive taxation and runaway government spending and championed traditional cultural beliefs.
Long stayed active in the Brooklyn Conservative Party and was elected County chairman in 1972. The following year, he was elevated to Vice-Chairman of the State Conservative Party.
Long was truly an old-fashioned political streetfighter. In 1977, for example, he had a run-in with a candidate for mayor at a forum at Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn. The candidate was Mario Cuomo.
Cuomo was boasting that his “Neighborhood Preservation Party” was the only political party in New York to have a platform. Hearing this, Mike Long interjected that Cuomo was wrong, and reminded him that the Conservative Party has a platform. When Cuomo told him he was wrong, Long yelled to him, “You’re a liar!”
What followed was a scene one would ordinarily expect to see in a schoolyard brawl: a pushing match. Long recalls: “Mario and I sneered at one another and began pushing back and forth. He pushed me through swinging doors and I pulled him along with me. The cops didn’t know me but they certainly knew the mayoral candidate, so they broke things up and searched me while Cuomo left in his car.”
“Moments later,” Long continued, “Cuomo came back in the car and called me over under some trees to chat. He apologized, and when I told him we did have a platform, Cuomo asked for copies. Next day, I had State Headquarters send him a copy of every platform since the Party’s inception. Later I received a note from Cuomo conceding that the Conservative Party did indeed have a platform.”
Long was elected the State party’s executive vice-chairman in 1986, and two years later he was unanimously elected state chairman.
Dedicated to defeating Governor Mario Cuomo, Long was instrumental in putting together the political coalition that elected governor in 1994 a little-known Republican-Conservative state senator from Poughkeepsie, George Elmer Pataki.
The Conservative Party provided the margin of victory for Pataki — and since then, no Republican has won a statewide race without the Conservative endorsement.
In 2011, Long fearlessly took on the state’s liberal establishment.
The New York Times reported that Empire State elites were fulminating because of the “single most potent and immoveable obstacle to the legislation of same-sex marriage in New York,” Conservative Party Chairman Michael R. Long.
For Long, when it came to getting the Conservative endorsement, one of the real breakers was traditional marriage: “You say ‘I’m not for traditional marriage’ you’re not going to get an endorsement. It’s as simple as that.”
Long refused to accept any compromises, “…there are certain things you have to stand for” he told the Times. “If we don’t stand for this, then why are we in business?”
After the same-sex marriage bill passed in 2011, true to his word, Long stripped the endorsement from the four Republican senators who supported the legislation. As a result, one decided not to seek another term and the others were losers in 2012.
In recent years, Long preached over and over again that to energize the party’s traditional voting base, Republican-Conservative candidates must proudly promote their Conservative credentials as well as a vision for the future. His words fell on deaf ears.
And that “hide your conservatism” approach cost the Republicans control of the State Senate this past November.
For over a half century, Long has been a “Street Corner Conservative” fighting for the folks.
When I think of Mike Long, what comes to mind is British journalist G.K. Chesterton’s description of the guardian of the neighborhood in "The Man Who Was Thursday": “He [finds] himself filled with a supernatural courage that came from nowhere … he did not think of himself as the representative of the corps of gentleman…. But he did feel himself as the ambassador of all those common and kindly people in the street.”
Michael R. Long — thank you for your service.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. To read more George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.