Ted Cruz, ‘New York Values,’ And The Myth Of Rural Superiority

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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For about a week now, we’ve been talking about Ted Cruz’s line about “New York values“—and Donald Trumps response—which hearkened back to 9-11.

“We rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers,” Trump said. “And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.”

But while the short-term political implications are obvious (the two men are fighting over Iowa—and the GOP nomination), this is also a microcosm of a larger phenomenon: Many conservatives see rural America as the “real America.

It’s hard to say this is a conservative instinct. The history of agrarian superiority is one of strange bedfellows: It has been advocated by everyone from Rousseau to Thomas Jefferson to Thoreau to Pol Pot.

To be sure, Ted Cruz isn’t the first patriotic American to put on a plaid shirt and genuflect at the altar of Rousseau’s ruralism. Why do you suppose Boston-born Ben Franklin, while attempting to woo the French to the American cause, donned a coonskin cap?

But whether an agrarian society is morally superior, or not, population trends have (for a long time, now) been moving toward urbanization.

It is perfectly understandable why a politician hoping to woo Iowa caucusgoers would want to pander to the rural base of the GOP.

It is less understandable why a movement hoping to win the 21st century would abide.

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Matt K. Lewis