As a born-and-raised New Yorker finishing up law school in the Midwest before getting ready to permanently take my oversized cowboy boot collection and Gadsden Flag paraphernalia down to Texas later this year, I want to chime in on the “New York values” feud from last night’s Republican Presidential debate. If you did not see this particular part of the Ted Cruz v. Donald Trump brawl, here you go.
The media, being Acela corridor-centric, has naturally tended to take Trump’s side. And yet, as my friend Harry Enten notes at 538, an April 2015 YouGov poll showed that more Republicans (49 percent) said they had an unfavorable view of New York State than said they had a favorable one (38 percent). The Cruz campaign is already fundraising off of the New York Daily News’ shameful front-page cover this morning—a cover, ironically, which itself helps prove Cruz’s underlying point. Indeed, it hardly seems at all obvious that this exchange will end up helping Trump or hurting Cruz on the ground in Iowa, in South Carolina, and in the March 1 “SEC Primary.” But I nonetheless want to put out a few thoughts of my own.
Notwithstanding Trump’s shrewd obfuscation of the underlying critique by nostalgically reverting to Rudy Giuliani 2008 campaign-style braggadocio, everyone listening knew exactly what Ted Cruz meant when he lambasted Donald Trump for exuding “New York values.” This line of attack quite clearly has neither anything at all to do with individual New Yorkers—many of whom are proud conservatives, and even some of whom I know to be close confidantes of Cruz himself—nor anything at all to do with the truly heroic actions of N.Y.P.D. and F.D.N.Y. first responders on September 11, 2001.
Instead, it is about a Mike Bloomberg-implemented Big Gulp soda-banning nanny state culture that reeks of Wilsonian “progressive” elitist provenance.
It is about a duly elected Leftist New York governor openly telling pro-life, pro-Second Amendment conservatives that they “have no place” in New York.
It is about a totalitarian Leftist New York City mayor whose alliance with anti-cop provocateur Al Sharpton causes N.Y.P.D. officers to turn their backs, and whose newly promulgated transgender law institutes fines for up to $250,000 for employers who refuse to use non-sensical (but preferred!) pronouns like “ze” and “hir.”
It is about a self-absorbed culture that openly denigrates benighted “flyover country,” says Lincoln should have just let the woebegone South secede, and belittles those neanderthals who “cling to their guns and religion.”
It is about a brutally corrupt and cronyist Wall Street-K Street axis of power, and the “revolving door” between Wall Street and our purportedly benign overseers at the Federal Reserve.
It is about a more stridently secular culture that eschews cultural conservatism and the need for secure borders—and one whose Republicans (mistakenly) preach the need to either call a truce or outright give up on contested social issues.
It is about a Rudy Giuliani/Chris Christie-esque brand of outsized ego Republicanism that barely cares an iota about cutting the size and scope of the Washington Leviathan, or about the imperative of engaging in constitutionally meaningful self-governance.
It is about a Gordon Gekko/Jordan Belfort-like hedonistic high-roller who once told Esquire in 1991 that, “you know, it really doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass,” and in a 2008 book once wrote, “oftentimes when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, ‘can you believe what I am getting?'”
It is about a man who openly explained to Tim Russert how being a lifelong New Yorker shaped his distinctly moderate (actually, probably just liberal) political profile—and who has supported universal healthcare, a complete ban on the (fictional) sub-category of firearms referred to as “assault weapons,” and legalizing the absolutely gruesome and barbaric practice known as “partial-birth abortion.”
It is about a proud brother of a zealously pro-abortion federal judge who claims that judge would make a “phenomenal” Supreme Court justice.
And so on.
We all know exactly what Ted Cruz meant last night. As someone for whom 9/11 was a seminal moment in my beginning to assemble a comprehensive worldview, I will be forever proud of my native state’s ability to unite in solidarity in those emotionally and physically draining post-9/11 months. Of course, Ted Cruz feels the same way. It was disingenuous, albeit clever, for Trump to pivot as he did.
In responding to Cruz’s attack, though, Donald Trump also invoked New York City native and lifelong Yankee William F. Buckley—the de facto founder of the very modern American conservative movement to which many (including both Leon and I) ironically see Trump himself as nothing short of an existential threat. A nice try by Trump, but this of course misses the point by conflating the ubiquitous characteristics and values of a particular place with an unusually prominent counterexample. Just as the Texas Panhandle will have some tree-hugging enviro-Statists (I think?), New York City will produce some national conservative leaders.
In October 2013, Erick Erickson wrote a memorable post here at RedState, excoriating what he viewed as the failure of the post-Buckley National Review to continue to hold Republicans’ and conservatives’ feet to the fire, and questioning their continued dedication to “stand[ing] athwart history, yelling stop.” We at RedState are indeed amongst the heirs to this Buckley legacy. While one’s place of birth dictates neither his values nor the trajectory of his life, we conservatives surely do care about culture. At the close of the 2015 RedState Gathering in Atlanta, Erick called up RedState’s volunteer contributors to the stage and praised them for representing “heartland values.” Notably, Erick did not care to publicly sort out contributors who failed some silly geographic litmus test. The litmus test is conservative ideology and a distinctly conservative belief that culture matters; for Cruz, geography merely serves as a helpful proxy.
But as post-Buckley movement conservatives, we have a duty to exercise care in continually ensuring our movement represents the “heartland values” to which Erick referred in Atlanta. Whether those values come from native New Yorkers like myself or from those born-and-raised in the heartland itself is ultimately irrelevant. It is the values themselves that matter: family, faith, culture, human dignity, limited government, moral clarity, and sovereignty, among others.
But what is relevant is ensuring that big-government faux-conservative anti-constitutionalist authoritarian demagogic Donald “New York values” Trump does not win the Republican Presidential nomination.