Ted Cruz lit the fuse back in January when he criticized the “New York values” of his campaign adversary Donald Trump. Since then, everyone who is anyone has piled on – exposing the widening chasm between urban versus suburban, exurban and rural perspectives on America.
Despite protestations, all of our candidates evidence traces of this American urban/rural dichotomy:
- The son of a Cuban immigrant, Ted Cruz was raised a Texan but left for the elite meritocracies of Princeton and Harvard; wife Heidi has worked for JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs – all New York based Wall Street firms.
- Born in Queens, counterpart Donald Trump epitomizes the wealthy New Yorker, stepping out for just two years to get educated at Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Finance.
- Like the Donald, Bernie Sanders was born a New Yorker, raised in Brooklyn, then ventured to Chicago and Israel before settling in Burlington, the largest city in the otherwise rural state of Vermont.
- Hilary Clinton was born in Chicago, grew up in suburban Park Ridge Illinois, escaped for the more rarified worlds of Wellesley and Yale, went to Washington DC and then further south to Arkansas before returning to Washington and ultimately to New York as U.S. Senator from her newly adopted state.
- The outsider of the group, John Kasich was born and raised near Pittsburgh, graduated from Ohio State University – but did burnish his “inside the beltway” credentials with 18 years in Congress including six years as House Budget Committee chair, before a private sector stint with Lehman Brothers and then currently as governor of Ohio.governorship.
With the departure of the man termed by The Donald as “lyin’ Ted Cruz” followed by dark horse Kasich, it appears that New York values trump all. Which specific New York values prevail – the in-your-face brashness of Trump, the socialism of The Bern, or the Wall Street coziness of Hilary – all remain to be seen.
Jesus & New York Values
Strange as it may seem, we have been here before. The conflict between rural and urban has animated humanity since the earliest days of civilization. And this interplay is nowhere as evident as with one Jesus of Nazareth. The questions posed here are two-fold:
Did Jesus embody rural (Galilean) or urban (Jerusalem) values?
And what message does the experience of 2,000 years past possibly convey today?
At first blush, the answer seems obvious. The Galileans of Jesus day were the uneducated, poor working classes of Palestine – lorded over by Judeans and Romans alike. And Jesus’ home town was particularly insignificant. As John’s gospel records, one of the earliest disciples Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law, the One whom the prophets foretold—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathaniel responds dismissively with the rhetorical question: “Can anything good come from Nazaraeth?” Like any good Missourian of today, Philip is ready with the simple come-back: “Come and see.”
But let’s retreat back just another century or so in history. With the Maccabees successful revolt against foreign domination, the largely unsettled region of the Galilee was quickly repopulated. Much as the rural kittbutzim of the 20th century served to secure the viability of the modern Israeli state, so the initiative to rebuild a self-sustaining economy prompted the re-settlement of urban Judeans to the countryside in the century before Christ as a means to make the deserts and marshes of the Galilee bloom again.
The available evidence suggests that, while perhaps disparaged by their urban counterparts, the Galilean settlers were a surprisingly educated, certainly religious, perhaps even sophisticated group. And the evidence is that Jesus knew how to mix it up in both worlds. Consider that:
- His (step) father Joseph had family roots in Bethlehem, next door to Jerusalem; tradition is that the Garden of Gethsemane may have been owned by Jesus’ mother’s family.
- At the mere age of 12, young Jesus engagedwith the teachers in the Temple – and those who interacted with the boy were “astonished at His understanding and answers.”
- As an adult, Jesus was equally at home with the poor, the dispossessed and working classes of the Galilean villages as with the elites of the Jewish capital.
- Even when on trial for his earthly life, he could confound an Idumean king, a Jewish high priest, and a Roman governor.
- And the gospel writer John (possibly Jesus’ cousin), finds privileged access to the Herodian household even as Jesus finds himself inexorably led toward death by crucifixion – a disciple “known to the high priest” … who went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest as sidekick Peter was forced to remain temporarily outside the door.
Even as he faced his own untimely demise, Jesus would lament over the fate of his adopted city:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
The destruction of the urban capital would be delayed beyond Jesus’ earthly sojourn by nearly two generations. But the destruction would come – a remarkable calamity for all. The leaders of the Jewish revolt and final defenders of the City before its destruction in 70 AD were the Zealots from out of the Galilee. While battling the Roman besiegers, within the City walls they were simultaneously executing the religious and political elites – even burning the graineries as added incentive for those still alive to fight for life. Meanwhile, their urban revolutionary counterparts – the Sicarii – fled the city to die via mass suicide at the desert fortress of Masada.
The Last Word
Today, the upper hand remains with the elites of the Big Apple – as disparate as they are. However, history suggests that in the end it is the folks of the hinterland that carry the day. Slow to anger, but with a fury not easily abated when finally aroused.
New York values may carry the day in 2016. But if the underlying frustration and anger of the electorate is not satisfied by this election, watch out! The fuse has been lit; if and when the explosion occurs for marginalized America is still anyone’s guess.
More: A Sampling of Recent Candidate Views on New York Values:
Exchange with Ted Cruz (January 2016):
MARIA BARTIROMO (Fox News): “Senator Cruz, you suggested Mr. Trump, quote, ’embodies New York values.’ Could you explain what you mean by that?”
CRUZ: “You know, I think most people know exactly what New York values are.”
Donald Trump (sometime long before 2016): “I’ve lived in New York City and Manhattan all my life. So, you know, my views are a little different than if I lived in Iowa — perhaps.”
Bernie Sanders (on the Nightly Show April 2016): “That’s right, it’s me, Bernie ‘Brooklyn Born’ Sanders, and guess what, Ted Cruz? I have New York values. I value a living wage for all Americans. I value a justice system that treats everyone fairly. I value a government which works for all of us, not just Wall Street and powerful special interests. Those are New York values.”
And in the closing remarks from the April 14 debate with the Bern just ahead of the state primary, Hilary Clinton was asking for the support of voters in her adopted state so she can take “New York values to the White House.”
From John Kasich: “I’ll tell you the way I see New York values: It’s excitement, it’s innovation, it’s fun, it’s big-time living.” And then the comparison with Ted Cruz and his views via TV ad: “Ted Cruz divides to get a vote, John Kasich unites to get things done.” (But no matter, both Ted and John are now out of the game).
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