New York values do exist, and they run counter to most American grassroots conservatism. What’s more, Ted Cruz is right that Donald Trump embodies many of them.
Over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz doubled down on his claim that Donald Trump has New York values. In a faux apology, he said he was sorry the hard-working people of New York have to suffer under incompetent liberal leadership. The sorry, not sorry was specifically addressed not only to Trump, but also to liberal New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. This is one mea culpa and trio of names Cruz will be happy to say over and over for the rest of the campaign.
Trump is offended by the remarks, which is a strange position for mister “to hell with political correctness” to find himself in. During Thursday’s Republican primary debate, The Donald bested Cruz in the New York values exchange, mainly through an emotional appeal to the attacks of 9/11. But Cruz is not shying away from his anti-Big Apple tactics.
Some have accused Cruz of anti-Semitism. I, too, recalled the “West Wing” pilot, in which an evangelical politico refers to a “New York sense of humor” as code for Jewish, and is admonished by President Bartlett. But Cruz isn’t engaged in anti-Semitism here—not exactly, anyway. Jewishness is a big part of New York City, but only a part.
The pop culture reference that most closely hews to Cruz’s attack on Gotham’s values comes not from Aaron Sorkin, but from Woody Allen, who in “Annie Hall” says: “Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.” I live here, too, and let’s face it: it’s kind of true.
New York City does have a unique set of values, just as Lubbock, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, do. A community’s values always depend upon environment. Customs and codes grow from civic soil. Eight million people crammed into 300 square miles are going to have different social behaviors and beliefs than 1 million people spread across the state of Montana.
So Cruz is right: there is such a thing as New York values, and many of those values run counter to those of American grassroots conservatism. What’s more, in at least a few important examples, Trump absolutely embodies these New York values.
Results Over Ideological Purity
Other than the strong belief that the “soup bread” they serve in Chicago is not pizza, New Yorkers don’t care about ideological purity. This explains how a Northeastern city that Democrats dominate went from 1992 to 2013 without electing a Democrat mayor.
Don’t kid yourself—a lot of ex-VW Bug-driving hippies held their noses to vote for Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. They had significant concerns about police tactics and rising rents, but in the end, results won out. The overall betterment of the city outweighed ideology.
New Yorkers will re-elect corrupt, even indicted political officials so long as they bring home the bacon to their communities. Politicians who fix potholes, improve bus service, and have strong community outreach are rewarded, and nobody cares too much how it all gets done. This is exactly the premise upon which Trump is running his campaign.
Trump has no ideological purity. He brags about having bought off politicians. His promises never begin with a set of beliefs; they begin and end with getting things done. In some cases, after making an outlandish promise Trump flat-out refuses to say how he will accomplish it, suggesting he’ll get better deals if he doesn’t show his cards. If Trump’s mantra is “The Art of the Deal,” Cruz’s may well be “No Deal.”
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