By Dan Heard
I love New York. Don’t worry, I’m not going to quote the intro to Woody Allen’s Manhattan line for line to make my point. But I really do love New York. I spent a long weekend there recently, doing all of the touristy things, obviously. Top of the Empire State Building, check. A visit to the Statue of Liberty, check. Time Square, Broadway, Ellis Island… and I learnt a fair bit too. Did you know Joseph Pulitzer, the founder of the most esteemed prize awarded in journalism, was a Hungarian immigrant who passed Lady Liberty on his way to the Land of the Free? And that on a clear day, from atop the Empire State’s eighty sixth-floor viewing platform, you can see for nearly fifty miles in any direction? Certainly, the crowd up there with me taking in the stunning views couldn’t have epitomised the Big Apple better, people of all ages and speaking an array of languages, weaving in and out of the way of each other. But even on top of the world (figuratively), I couldn’t escape my burning question. How many of these visitors are Donald Trump supporters? How many New Yorkers are?
My guess? From this group, very few. At least, I assume that is the case. Of the hundreds who passed me during the half hour or so I was up there, only a few could have fallen into that category. But of the city as a whole? A city that is traditionally staunchly democratic? (Manhattan, coincidently, was the only county in the entire state of New York not to vote for Trump in the city’s Republican primary, choosing instead the supposedly moderate Ohio Governor John Kasich). After a quick Google, I had my answer. New York is kicking some Republican ass in terms of votes, with less than twenty five thousand rooting for the ‘big’ three of Trump, Kasich and Texas’s Ted Cruz in Manhattan, while former New York Senator and Chappaqua resident Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie ‘Feel the Burn’ Sanders won more than ten times that in the inner-city borough.
Interestingly, three of the five candidates could call the city home last week. Trump, a winner in his home state, of course, must surely be the most famous person to come out of Queens in years, his Trump Tower (which he doesn’t own by the way, just has his name written on massive gold letters. Very classy though) nestled off Fifth Avenue. Sanders is Brooklyn Bernie, though is currently Senator of Vermont, while Chicago-born Hillary, who swept to victory over her rival, is a Westchester County-dweller these days, eight years after her term as Governor ended. Each candidate had the opportunity to make the place their stage, their platform for their vision for America. Which is a lot more than Mr Cruz did anyway. Hosting an astoundingly lacklustre event in the famous Bronx, and suffering the consequences of a comment he made earlier in the campaign critical of ‘New York Values’ in comparison to those of the American heartland. Wait, don’t you know about ‘New York Values’?
Neither does Cruz. His comments implied a certain definition of ‘New York Values’ that places them in sharp contrast with ‘American Values’. While the former might include brusqueness, a fondness for big government and a penchant for bagels and cheesecake, the latter includes a strict adherence to the Second Amendment, (Good ‘Ol Ted founded a club in college in which members memorised chunks of the damn thing, such is his wack-job commitment), an idea of religious liberty for Christians and a desire to ‘carpet bomb’ enemies of the United States (probably shouldn’t put that bit in parenthesis, he legitimately wants to…) Of course, these categories are arbitrary and devoid of any fixed meaning, they are myths that the candidates can deploy to advance their campaigns according to the direction of the political winds in any given week.
Rather than abandoning these concepts, though, I would argue that New York values and American values are far more similar than they are different. I learnt from my time at Ellis Island that New York City has represented the gateway to the United States for millions of immigrants who have irreversibly shaped the face of the country, like Mr Pulitzer (Cruz himself, born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father, has an American story deeply coloured by immigration. But let’s not mention that) Thanks in part to its history of immigration, New York is incredibly diverse in racial, ethnic and linguistic terms. Its residents speak a staggering eight hundred different languages (and Trump only likes one of them). But like the rest of the country, it is troubled by a laundry list of very serious problems, from which there appears no quick fix. In the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan and while walking along the packed streets, I was repeatedly struck by the incompatibility between the worldview of division, deportation and isolation espoused by Trump and Cruz and the very existence of a multicultural city like New York. I still love the ‘City That Never Sleeps’, but lost a fair bit thinking about just what the primary’s victors have planned next.