• Karl M. Miller

The conservative 'New York values' message is still relevant, stop blotching it

The effects of Ted Cruz’s “New York values” remark months ago before the Iowa caucuses to describe Donald Trump's liberal record, was a main factor that led to his distant third place finish in the New York primary. It may even have affected the Mr. Cruz's momentum in the race which he ultimately suspended. However this experience should be instructive to the senator and other conservatives about how to go about their messaging while making the contrast between liberalism and conservatism. Had the phrase been ‘ New York political values’, it could have had a vastly different effect.

The normally articulate Mr. Cruz probably assumed that line “New York values” with a few supporting sentences alone would have been enough to convey what he really meant. That the liberal high tax and regulation political philosophies of New York politicians, have led to slow growth, higher cost of living and the stifling of upward income mobility and educational opportunities of New York residents. Instead, it was construed by many New Yorkers as being an attack on their own personal values and culture. Mr. Trump capitalized on those sentiments by implying that it demeaned the compassionate values New Yorkers showed to others during 9/11. These strong reactions probably motivated many New Yorkers including Republicans in the state to ‘tune out’ from anything else Mr. Cruz had to say that might have boosted his credibility.

A key lesson here for Mr. Cruz and other conservatives is that they should never assume that certain words or phrases spoken in a certain crowd, especially one that shares their same political views, will also stoke the same reactions or have the same meaning to another. Speaking about limited government, being a constitutional conservative and about New York values will only have the intended meanings if they are spoken in the context of ‘what this means to you’ to justify conservatism.

Liberal political values are not inherent to New York, but the state especially in recent years has been an embodiment of such values that has had negative effects to its residents. New York is often passed over by many conservatives and members in the GOP as being a blue state that will automatically go for Democrats in the general election. Being seen as a reliably safe blue state with many rich donors is probably why Mrs. Clinton moved to New York to begin her political career in the first place. However, the biggest blotched opportunity of Mr. Cruz’s remark was failure to make the case for conservatism by explaining how liberal policies have been driving New Yorker residents to seek the benefits of conservative policies that are working in other states. Mr. Cruz is not the only conservative to blotch this message, but he is the latest high profile standard bearer of conservatism to do so.

In recent years New York has been experiencing more people moving out than moving in. IRS data and analysis by Americans for Tax Reform revealed that in 2013 alone New Yorker was the biggest loser among all states with a net loss of 115,000 residents. Among these residents are New Yorkers who also found the state too expensive to retire due to its high income and property taxes. Some find it even too expensive to die in due its high death tax on property and assets. In the latest Rich States, Poor States document published by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and based on 2010 census data, nearly 1,000 people move from Blue states to Red states every day. The key driver has been that many residents have been voting with their feet and moving to states with conservative policies that promote better business environments, lower taxes and regulation and thus lower cost of living. Thus, many New York residents have been moving away from the effects of New York political values that do not work in their interests, to states with values that do. The effects of the political values many New Yorkers try to avoid are the same type that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton would like see for the rest of America.

It might not seem like it if you drive around New York, but despite the all the construction activity the state is an expensive one to start, own and operate a business due the taxes and regulations. If one was to speak to a number of small business owners, it would not take long to learn that a common challenge cited would be the thick layer of big government bureaucracy and regulations that not only makes doing business tedious and expensive for them, but also the customers.

While many parts of the country including neighboring Pennsylvania was experiencing economic growth due to hydraulic fracturing, the political values of liberal politicians in New York refused to allow the same benefits to the residents of upstate New York. This even after multiple environmental studies proved that the drilling technique would not have the preconceived negative effects that the same politicians predicted it would have. More recently, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo killed the 124 mile Constitution Pipeline which would have carried natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York and beyond. Gone are the prospects of over 2400 jobs, $13 million a year in local tax revenue and more supply of lower cost natural gas for New York homes and businesses.

Probably nothing exposes the hypocrisy of liberal political values as being the champion for the poor and middle class than the persistent opposition to school choice by New York City’s liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio and other Democrats who constantly choose the interests of their strong teacher’s union donor base over poor children. School choice has proven to be an effective driver in aiding mostly poor and/or minority children even with special needs to access quality education to further their chances of upward mobility. School choice has also proven to reduce income inequality for those same groups which liberals normally purport to help, but instead are the main barriers to these reforms. Not only in NY, but also in other parts of the country where conservatives or GOP leadership have been the most active advocates to expand school choice despite opposition from liberals including President Obama.

Go down any street in NYC or its surroundings and one will notice multiple diverse small businesses with people who speak an array of languages. Stand on any street corner or drive on the busy roads and one will notice commercial vehicles with signage that indicate that the businesses they represent where founded or is still operated by someone who immigrated from another country. Socialism didn’t create those opportunities, free market capitalism did. New York and other states like California have been the gateway of millions of people who fled socialist countries with nothing, but found opportunities in the free markets of a limited government USA. In time, they were able to have their family name be part of signage on a building or vehicle representing a business they started.

This is a crucial message that has been missing in this election cycle where probably like never before there is a brazen campaign by the Democrat Party to aggressively take America down that path of socialism, and no shame to call it as such. Ironically while many people in America are falling for the euphoric allures of populist driven socialism led by Bernie Sanders, people in Brazil and Venezuela are now trying to dispose the hash realities of it. Like many countries before them that went down that failed path, they were promised that by giving more political power to leftist politicians to redistribute wealth and control capital, their lives would get better. They were also told that the villains of inequality were the financial industry and private companies and so politicians should be given more power to 'protect' the people from these entities too. The culture of corruption that followed especially as politicians ran out of other people's money and as the artificial economy inflated by government spending collapsed, only led to more people being poorer.

It has been a missed opportunity by the GOP to broaden its base with people who themselves or their family has fled and resisted socialism, and thus resonate with the conservative political values that promote free enterprise and opportunity. Now that challenge belongs to the GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump if he decides to embrace the standards of conservatism and Speaker Paul Ryan who has laid out bold reforms before only to have them vetoed by President Obama or blocked by Harry Reid in the Senate. Mr. Trump will have chances to broaden the GOP base with this message as he campaigns in large and diverse states like California, which has experienced the effects of similar liberal political values as those in New York. After attacking Mr. Cruz for saying 'New York values' Mr. Trump could now adopt a broader message by calling it 'Blue State Values' and explain why. Whether he can effectively do this or not despite the divisive rhetoric he is known for, the window of opportunity to communicate and justify conservative political values is rapidly closing.


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