The Two-Way Street

Paul Krugman asked a question near and dear to this native-born New Yorker's heart:

I understand why it’s political poison to show disrespect for small-town values — dignity is precious to all of us, and often trumps material interest. But why is it OK to disrespect big city values, even to suggest — as Bush has — that big-city dwellers aren’t part of the “real America”?


I think the answer is that it isn't okay. Not only was I born in New York City, but both of my parents were and three of my four grandparents were. The great-grandparents all came from foreign countries. That's a very American story, an American Tail, if you will, yet the conservative movement in America treats it as some kind of elitist put-on that my dad has the temerity to live in the city where he was born:



I think you can see in the election results that GOP rhetoric of this sort has the expected effect. Look at the 1988 election results and you'll see Bush's dad winning California and dominating in the New York suburbs -- carrying New Jersey & Connecticut and Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties in New York. Some of that's issues, but some of it is surely metropolitan America not liking GOP atmospherics and condescension.

But the press covers this stuff in different ways. Obama made a gaffe, whereas Bush has a masterful political strategy to exploit Democrats' out-of-touchiness. That's because Republicans have dominated recent American politics, so the press is primed to find Democratic blunders and GOP masterstrokes. If we wake up in January 2009 and the government is dominated by a Democrat named Barack Obama and a congressional leadership from San Francisco (Pelosi), Las Vegas (Reid), Chicago (Emmannuel and Durbin), suburban Maryland (Hoyer), and Brooklyn (Schumer) I assume we'll start hearing more about potential downsides to GOP political tactics. But they would need to lose first.