Why We Hate New York
By Thinking Man’s Conservative, Feb. 12, 2012
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I hate to break it to you, New York, but as a friend and part-time resident, I feel I need to tell you that people don’t like you very much. I’m not talking about the bean-eating Brahmin of Boston. It’s middle-America, people from Omaha, Des Moines, Memphis, Mobile, Kansas City. These people don’t like you.
I’m sure you’re asking why these people don’t like you. You’re the place where many of their relatives, distant or close, first landed in America. You’re the city of hopes and dreams. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere…I imagine a young, upstart Sinatra singing this, looking across the Hudson, with ambition and determination, from the place where my apartment now stands, but I digress… You think of yourself as the personification (citification?) of the American dream.
So why do people mock you? Why does Newt Gingrich refer to you as the city of high-rise living, subway-riding elites? To anyone who has ridden a NYC subway, or seen the high rise projects in the Bronx, I’m sure you know the kind of elites to which Newt refers. Why the vitriol?
Why? Because you seem out of touch with how the rest of America lives – the real America – the America of Norman Rockwell paintings, Jimmy Stewart movies, the America of wheat, corn, cotton, automobiles and strip malls.
You don’t invite your neighbors over for Sunday BBQ. You’re obnoxious. You talk too loud and too fast. You have way too many people. You can’t drive. You’re pompous.
More importantly, you’re successful. You’re ambitious (refer back to Sinatra). While the rest of America is losing hope in ever realizing the American dream, you get up every morning and keep chasing it. And you sometimes get there. You don’t know what it’s like to have to give up on the dream.
To anyone who is concerned about this election cycle, understanding this sentiment is key to understanding one of the most powerful forces that shaping the race. It’s not really Democrat versus Republican, or progressive versus conservative…it’s urban versus non-urban.
New York is just an archetype of this sentiment. This sentiment exists, admittedly to a lesser degree, in my hometown of Charlotte. The rift between those who live in the core of Charlotte, many of whom are ambitious, successful professionals working Uptown (our version of downtown), and those who live outside of the city, is huge, and widening. The way these people vote follows predictable patterns. Not just for candidates, but on issues as well – Should we extend rail lines? Should we widen roads? How do we fix our schools?
However, as much as we dislike the cities, realistically, we should embrace them (see New York, I’m still your friend). As we look at the plight that the Great Recession has created for so many people, our cities still offer promise. Nowhere else in America is social mobility as possible as it is in the cities. Even today, the immigrant who comes to New York with nothing more than a dream can still be successful.
Our cities are still the centers for innovation. Innovation occurs when you put a lot of smart people together where they can build off of each others’ ideas (heck, give me and my friends an evening and a case of beer, and we’ll get America working again).
As counterintuitive as it seems, cities are some of the greenest places on Earth. As we struggle to find energy independence, we can once again look to the cities. The average city dweller uses far less energy per year than the average non-city dweller.
I know that much of the country is struggling. It’s real, and it stings. However, some politicians will try to manipulate this sentiment. They will drive a wedge between the urban centers and the rest of America. They will play on the resentment of cities to drive a traditionalist agenda which, if actually enacted, would drive us back to pre-industrial days. So, be very wary of the anti-urban, anti-“elite” rhetoric.
One more thing, come back and visit us. We’ll even have you over on Sunday for BBQ to watch the Giants.
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**Photo Caption: Rockwell’s Breakfast Table Political Argument from 1948 was a Saturday Evening Postcover on Oct. 30, 1948. Courtesy Harry S. Truman Library. The black-and-white photo it was taken from (right), courtesy of Norman Rockwell Museum.