I like Ted Cruz.
Allow me to be specific. Particularly, I like how Cruz fought fearlessly against implementation of the health care law in 2013, leading the charge in Congress to stop it, a valiant effort that resulted in legislation being crafted and passing the House to defund it.
Ultimately, it proved impossible to get the legislation through the Senate, which was still controlled by Democrats. A brief, partial shutdown of the federal government ensued. Perhaps the House could have prevailed, but ultimately Congressional Republican leadership threw in the towel and that was that. Obamacare got the funding it needed to be implemented.
But through it all, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz stood tall on the Senate floor, passionately making the case against the law’s implementation for an impressive 21 straight hours. It earned my personal respect, and that of millions of Americans, who saw a leader emerge at a time that had otherwise been characterized by seeming acquiescence to the boundless expansion of government.
There were other battles still on the horizon. Efforts to defund the President’s executive amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants with U.S.-born children, and Planned Parenthood after explosive videos emerged of the organization’s employees openly discussing the sale of unborn baby organs. The omnibus spending bill. Each time, Cruz was there, fighting for the interests, as he saw them, of Americans everywhere.
I really do like Cruz. His Senate record has been very strong, and his presentation of limited government principles has been without equal. He has been a stalwart for the liberty of all Americans.
Agree or disagree with Cruz, one cannot deny his sincerity. He is doing it for us all.
That is why I was so disappointed by Cruz’ attack on “New York values” on the Howie Carr Show recently. It was meant as a jab to his rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump, but the swipe had hit a far broader target.
“I think he may shift in his new rallies to play ‘New York, New York’ because Donald comes from New York and he embodies New York values,” Cruz said in response to a question about Trump’s use in his campaign of the song, “Born in the USA.”
It was then raised at the subsequent presidential debate, where Cruz was given an opportunity to clarify his statement. “I think most people know exactly what New York values are,” Cruz said, doubling down. What he said after that, attempting to provide some context to his statement, that New York City values were “socially liberal, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage,” almost didn’t matter.
Not to me. By then, I was seeing red. Even after some time for reflection, Cruz had struck a nerve. A raw one. I took it personally. I was born in New York, as were tens of millions of other Americans. It is a heritage I embrace proudly and one I could not set aside if I tried.
And like Americans elsewhere throughout the country, we are individuals. We will not fit into cookie cutter, ideological templates.
To the point, there is a whole lot more to New York than political or social issues or even liberal politicians. Cruz went on to describe that there are “many, many wonderful working men and women” from New York. That is true.
There is, in fact, a broader New York character that is among the most hard-working and dedicated to family in the entire world, regardless of political stripe. A great many of them are liberals. Democrats. People who would disagree about the issues fervently with myself, Cruz or other limited government advocates, and who embody that essential virtue all the same.
New York is vast. Every kind of person you can imagine lives there. Young, old, rich, poor, you name it. Many of our relatives immigrated legally through New York generations ago, and grew up there. Made themselves there. Raised their families there. Died there.
There are a great many things that New Yorkers surely disagree with one another about — we’re all different. But at the end of the day, we don’t hate each other for it. We look past our differences, which are numerous — culturally, religiously, philosophically, politically, economically, socially. We are not Montagues and Capulets. We don’t have it in for one another, with the possible exception of sports rivalries. And even then, at the end of the day, we’re still all New Yorkers. We’re still all Americans.
Those things that unite us — whether it’s the daily grind, our love of professional sports, pizza, dirty water dogs sold on the street, take-out and delivery of every kind of food imaginable, the opera, entrepreneurship, the Adirondacks, the beaches, the boardwalks, the parks, the local bands and music, the fishing and boating, the subway, the smell, the traffic, the crystalline skyscrapers, our big families, the city as a whole — those things transcend our differences.
No, Cruz’ statement was not about 9/11. But Trump was right to bring it up in his response at the debate. For, New York’s united character was on display after the attacks. We would defend each other, dig each other out of a pile of concrete a mile deep no matter how long it took, to the death if needs be.
And so would millions of Americans across the country, many of whom were there that day and in the days that followed. Regardless of politics. That is who we are.
That is why, after 9/11, New York and America stood up as one. An attack on New York was an attack on us all. It didn’t matter where we came from or who we had voted for. We were all in this together.
That is why when then-President George W. Bush came to New York after the attacks, and stood on the rubble with his bullhorn, or threw out the opening pitch at Game 3 of perhaps one the greatest World Series ever, New Yorkers openly embraced him without reservation, without hesitation, with enthusiastic shouts of, “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”
In those days that followed, embodying New York was an expression for embodying the entire nation. It really meant something. It was love of country.
What if Trump had attacked Texas values, or Southern values, or Christian values? Would that have made Texans, Southerners or Christians more or less likely to vote for him?
In many ways, it is the same type of chasm that separates the political establishment in Washington, D.C. from the rest of America. How can the politicians who have been there for decades ask for everyday Americans’ support when they have expressed such disdain for them?
No, I’m not saying Cruz represents the establishment. Not at all. He has been a maverick, a thorn in the establishment’s side from day one. His integrity is without question. His courage is a testament to his personal character. No matter what you throw at Ted Cruz, he fights. Of all the politicians in Washington, D.C., he is one of the ones I most admire. And that is why I was saddened with what he said.
The dilemma I had was that I liked Ted Cruz, but did Ted Cruz like me? That was the part that got to me the most, the part that stung, and, what I suspect may prove to be the most devastating thing politically about his gaffe. And that is what it was — a gaffe.
Besides the obvious facts that, for example, there are 95 delegates at stake in the New York primary for the Republican presidential nomination that Cruz might have been able to compete for. Or that even regionally in the northeast, his statement would have reverberations in critical states like New Hampshire. Or that many New Yorkers, like me, being from a relatively expensive state to live and raise a family in — and perhaps one with fewer opportunities available there then had existed in the past — have long since moved away to other, lower-cost states like, say, Florida or Virginia or Texas.
It was simply that one might find it hard to support somebody who, at the end of the day, you’re not certain really likes you all that much.
With people from all walks of life from every corner of the globe, striving for something more, New York stands as a unique destination of opportunity. Excelsior. Ever upward. That is the Empire State’s motto. New York also embodies perfectly our national motto: Out of many, one. Being from New York, it is a spirit that is second nature to us, which binds us together.
And the task before any president, regardless of politics, is finding a way to represent all of us. That, at the end of the day, we are still one country. Those are the New York, American values I embrace. It is a badge we wear proudly.
To embody New York is to embody us all.
This is a guest post by Robert Romano senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.