It has been said that you cannot understand America without understanding New York City, and the first thing to understand about New York is that it isn’t very much like the rest of America. That is true, unquestionably. But New York’s traditional virtues — its brashness, its hustle and enterprise, its anything-is-possible attitude — are the traditional American virtues, just as the city’s vices — its materialism, its self-importance, its fascination with the transitory and the impermanent — are the American vices, too. Conservatives, of all people, should be more attuned to the virtues of the nation’s commercial center; let the nation’s art-school dropouts sneer at that great collision of money and culture. The city has been the incubator of our best minds — Buckley, Friedman, Podhoretz, Kristol — and is home to great conservative institutions from The New Criterion and the Manhattan Institute to this magazine. Ayn Rand, who didn’t understand people but had a great and admirable capacity to be arrested by the beauty of human achievements, loved New York as only an immigrant can.
To the extent that “New York values” is another way of saying “urban values” — and it is, to a great extent — conservatives would do well to develop a keener appreciation of them. (Never mind, for the moment, the notion that Donald Trump’s values are identical to the values of New York, in which he is a figure of fun rather than a figure of respect.) From a matter of pure self-interest, Republicans would be in much better shape if their presidential candidates did not start in an electoral hole, with California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois wrapped up in a bow for the Democrats. It isn’t California ranchers and Illinois farmers who have handed those states to the Left, but city-dwelling people who believe with some reason — Ted Cruz has just given them another — that Republicans hate them.
Our cities are disproportionately black, but they are not disproportionately Martian. Our cities have many immigrants, but not immigrants from the Land of People Who Don’t Care About Their Kids and Really Like Paying High Taxes. Ask a black Democrat in the Bronx working to support a family whether he’d prefer to make more money or less, to keep more of his money or less, to have more economic security or less, for his children to have more educational opportunities or fewer, and he will give the same answers as any plaid-panted Brooks Brothers specimen haunting the Merion Cricket Club — or any white oilman running a fracking rig in the Eagle Ford shale. His values are New York values, too.