All personal feelings aside, when Ted Cruz tried to insult Donald Trump by saying he had “New York values,” he misjudged the rest of the country’s current feelings towards the Big Apple, the most visited tourist spot in the Americas, including Las Vegas.
New York still represents the big city, but not necessarily in a negative way. For millions of vacationers, New York offers a wonderfully homogenized tourist zone: the cleaned-up Times Square, the High Line, a Broadway musical or two, a visit to Strawberry Fields in Central Park and a shopping or window-shopping trip down Fifth Avenue. Along the way, the average tourist may run into an historic building or a museum or gallery. For educated young people, who tend to like cities and mass transit more than their parents do, New York represents a Mecca, as it does to anyone interested in either traditional or cutting edge performing or visual arts.
New York represents all the positive trends in cities over the past twenty years. Cities all over the country are cleaner and much safer than they used to be, filled with creative and educated young people, multiple entertainment venues and interesting non-chain restaurants, magnets for wealthy consumers, empty nesters and recent immigrants. The energy and diversity of cities are now glorified and considered precious national resources.
In other words, Senator Cruz, your anti-New York dog won’t hunt.
Today’s view of New York is largely positive. Sure there are small-town folk throughout the country like my uncle in Macon, Georgia, who don’t like New York and may be intimidated by it or, like a friend of mine in the Los Angeles area, feel uncomfortable traveling unless driving an automobile. But for most of the country, New York is a cuddly and loveable town. Dozens of celebrities and pundits from all over the country, including many fellow Republicans, joined in the chiding of Cruz, even the Wall Street Journal.
Cruz was wrong not just in his cynical attempt to tar Donald Trump with insults by connecting him to the Big Apple. Cruz conflates New York with a set of social values that are now largely accepted throughout the country. The fight for gay marriage did not take place in New York, but California, Ohio, Texas and Kentucky. The Roe v. Wade case came out of Texas. There is no difference in the number of women using birth control sometime in their life in New York City and elsewhere in the country.
Also implicated in “New York values” is the concept of the suspicious or dangerous “other” lurking in ethnic and cultural diversity. True enough, New York City is the most diverse city in the world, a place where you can hear more languages regularly spoken within its five boroughs (actually one, Queens) than any other municipality in the world. But the rest of the United States is gradually following New York’s lead and becoming far more diverse, not just in its population, but in the mainstreaming of ethnic and sexual minorities.
As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and others have pointed out, “New York values are American values.”
At the end of Ted Cruz’ brief list of the values he despises and that New York symbolizes for him, he mentioned money. When he says money, everyone understands he means the capitalist system, lots of very wealthy people and great wealth inequality. In condemning New York for its “money” Cruz is not wrong on the facts, just being hypocritical, for two reasons: 1. Cruz supports policies which help “money” make and keep more money. He is a fanatical believer in the free market unencumbered by regulations and unions. 2. Cruz has accepted a ton of money from New York sources. Judging from his list of campaign contributors, including loans from two large New York banks that epitomize Wall Street, Ted Cruz loves New York money.
The biggest mistake that Ted Cruz makes is to try to characterize New York. New York is everything and has archetypes and prototypes of every kind of person: Billionaires, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and trust fund babies, yes. But also secular Jewish socialists, left-leaning professors, strong labor unions, progressive publishers, jazz hipsters, aging hippies, Brooklyn rappers, punks, goths, geeks and LGBTQ, immigrants from every continent, artists, dancers, musicians, writers, designers, inventors, first-nighters and birdwatchers (in the many large parks and wetlands within the city limits), communists and neo-cons, trannies and tanned jetsetters, fashionistas with Fendi bags and feminists with shopping bags, plus millions of ordinary families of every color, race, religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity.
In short, New York is everything and has everything. New York values encompass all values. To insult New York is to insult the totality of human experience.