DYCHE | Louisville Values
Kentuckians should try to bridge the gap between Louisville and the rest of the state.
By John David Dyche
A recent brouhaha in the Republican presidential race arises from Texas Senator Ted Cruz's assertion that billionaire businessman Donald Trump "embodies New York values."
Cruz claims the rest of America knows what he means by that phrase. When pressed, he says New York values "are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage [and] focus around money and the media."
The Texan seeks to appeal to rural and Republican red states where the GOP nominating contest is being waged. He bases it on Trump's 1999 statement that, "I've lived in New York City in Manhattan all my life, OK? So, you know, my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa."
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also said in 2014 that "extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay … have no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are."
Trump effectively countered Cruz by invoking the New York values displayed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Others, including Saturday Night Live, ridiculed Cruz's insult as not-so-thinly veiled anti-Semitism.
Several conservatives rose to the Big Apple's defense. The metropolis may be mostly liberal, but it has also produced some of the political right's most influential figures and represents much that makes America great and unique.
Some other Republican presidential candidates, like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, also repudiate Cruz's attack on America's biggest city. Rubio says he wants to unite the country, not divide it with irresponsible rhetoric.
The urban-rural divide is nothing new in American culture and politics. Here in Kentucky, it has taken the form of tension between Louisville and the rest of the state.
Having grown up in a small town in southeastern Kentucky, this columnist can personally attest to the fact that, at least back then, an aura of fear, hostility, and suspicion often surrounded the state's biggest city. That cloud may have dissipated somewhat, but has not completely disappeared.
Familiarity supposedly breeds contempt, but maybe more so unfamiliarity. People are frequently afraid of what they do not know, and mutual misunderstandings between provincials and city dwellers can manifest themselves in manners negative for both.
Folks from what we refer to as "out in the state" often feel condescension from citizens of cities. Occasionally that may be mere insecurity, but sometimes it is real.
Do things like race, religion, and social issues play a part in this phenomenon? Definitely, but so do other factors, like history, political parties, and political philosophies.
Even when the Democratic Party dominated Kentucky there was a difference between those in Louisville and those from elsewhere. Now that Jefferson County is the only congressional district represented by a Democrat, the city vs. country political friction is even more pronounced.
At least Kentucky finally elected a governor, Matt Bevin, who hails from and proudly claims Louisville. It had been over a century since it had done so, and Bevin seems determined to bring us together.
In his inaugural address he repeatedly emphasized the state's motto: "United We Stand; Divided We Fall."
Representatives of Louisville and other urban areas like Lexington and northern Kentucky must still contend with a deck that is sometimes stacked against them in the state legislature. These more prosperous urban areas send more money into Frankfort than they get back, effectively subsidizing rural Kentucky.
Big city legislators lament this unfairness in areas like the allocation of road funds. Some say policies of entitlement and redistribution that favor rural regions over urban enclaves are holding the state back.
Over a decade ago respected economist Paul Coomes sounded an alarm about this disparity and urged reform. The balance of power in state politics may be shifting from rural to urban, but the process is a very gradual one with lingering inequities, both real and perceived, in the meantime.
Some argue that Kentucky would be better off if the state capital was in Louisville since it is the state's biggest city and economic engine. That is obviously not going to happen, but surely other steps can be taken to bring diverse Kentuckians closer together.
A lot of great institutions, organizations, and people sow a lot of great work toward this end. They include Kentucky Educational Television, Leadership Kentucky, and the state's colleges and universities, to name just a few.
Louisville is home to a lot of people who, like me, came here from a Kentucky small town. Most of us embrace our rural roots, but love Louisville.
Although more diverse and liberal than the rest of Kentucky, Louisville also has a lot in common with its country cousins.
From its many fantastic neighborhoods, to its vibrant civic and religious life, to the downright decency and goodness of its people, Louisville values and Kentucky values are largely the same.
Republicans are right to reject Cruz's divisive attack even if there is some truth to it as to Trump. Kentuckians should likewise try to bridge the gap between Louisville and the rest of the state.
(John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His email is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.)
Copyright 2016 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.