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How Bernie Should Push His “New York Values” (in the New York Primary)


On April 19, New York will hold its Democratic Primary election. Here’s a good move for Bernie to make in his campaign there: declare the “New York values” that his campaign represents, and contrast them with Trump’s.

The gateway into this presentation was opened back in January when Ted Cruz went after Donald Trump with a sneering reference to “New York values.” So the question of what constitute “New York values” is sitting out there on the table.

Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have significant ties to New York, and so both could pitch their own campaigns in terms of their own “New York values,” and use that rubric to draw a strong contrast with the likely Republican nominee, billionaire New Yorker Donald Trump. But this approach is especially suited to Bernie Sanders because – even if he represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate – Bernie grew up in New York.

So Bernie could talk about how his formative years in New York taught him values that continue to inspire his politics. For it is almost certainly true that a wide range of Sanders’ deepest political values have a deep connection with the cultural milieu in New York City in which, during the 40s and 50s, he first learned about the world.

Just for one dramatic example, on the issue of diversity: New York is the proto-type of the American melting pot, for tolerance and respect between people of different ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds.

There are three important campaign benefits that Bernie can derive by talking about a range of political values he learned by growing up in New York:

  • He can introduce himself and his values to the voters in a way that reminds them that he is, in his origins, one of them (which could also help cut into what most see as Hillary’s “home-field advantage” where she served as a Senator not so long ago);
  • He can pay homage to the City (and presumably also to the state) and to its people, by connecting them with major values to which he is dedicated —and it never hurts to give a sincere tribute to the culture of the place that’s about to hold an election with you on the ballot; and
  • He can use this framework to go after Trump (and the GOP) by making the stark contrast between his New York values (like tolerance and respect) and Trump’s (like appeals to bigotry against Mexican “rapists” and Muslims to be banned en masse from entering the country).

(I have argued previously that Bernie’s best chance for the nomination may be to prove, before the convention, that he is the candidate better able to take on Trump and bring him down, and have explained why he probably is.)

This presentation of “My New York Values” can take two forms: it can be a substantive speech (or a part of a speech) of whatever length; and it could be made into a one-minute TV ad. I would think both, in combination, would work well.