New York values

For the Globe and Mail, I wrote about the New York primary, in a piece published the day before. The piece discusses not only the candidates — three of whom are personally connected to New York — but the elitism and expense that has transformed the city since I moved away in the mid-2000s:

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years,” the novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote in 1939.

This year, three of the four major presidential candidates are either from, or represent, New York City: Bernie Sanders, the humbly born Brooklynite who fled for Vermont in 1968; Hillary Clinton, the Illinois-born First Lady who overcame “carpetbagger” stigma to serve two terms as New York’s Senator; and Donald Trump, the quintessential New York tycoon, born a millionaire in Queens, now a billionaire in Manhattan.

The fourth major candidate, Ted Cruz, made a disparaging remark on “New York values,” which he defined as “socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage, focus around money and the media” but which some viewed as coded anti-Semitism.

Who belongs to New York? What does it mean, in an era when gentrification and the soaring cost of living have forced New Yorkers to flee their hometown, to be a “real new Yorker”?

As New Yorkers prepare to vote in the April 19th primary, the candidates stand as uneasy reminders of how a metropolis once synonymous with reinvention became an island of impossibility. To complain that the city has lost its soul is a New York cliché. But it is difficult to understate the extent of the city’s transformation over the past 15 years, as rents tripled and quadrupled, as historic black neighbourhoods turned white, as homelessness increased and the New York homeless worked multiple jobs.

New York has narrowed, like Americans’ options. While often viewed in the heartland as an affluent anomaly – the gleaming Capitol to the rust belt’s District 12 – New York shares the same problems as the rest of the country.

Candidates like Mr. Cruz who depict New York as detached from the mainstream ignore that New Yorkers, too, are struggling. Their struggle is less obvious only because so many New Yorkers have been forced to leave their homes in the city to survive. One can still belong to New York, in spirit, but fewer can belong in New York, because New York has priced them out.

Read the whole thing — Clinton, Trump, Sanders: Who Really Belongs to New York? — at the Globe and Mail

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