A few flashbacks:
The first flashback, I don't remember the exact year of, but I believe that it is autumn of 2002. Before the war. I was taking a class in international politics, probably a junior level course. This was at Portland State University, and most of the student body was pretty liberal. Discussion of the upcoming war was inevitable, and in one class, when asked what might be the influences on George W Bush's views of foreign policy. Without missing a beat, I responded "Watching Walker, Texas Ranger every night". Cue laughter. Although we didn't have the term at the time, I had made a hot take: a trite but exciting observation. In my defense, this was before the blogosphere, before even talk of Red State and Blue State, and the analysis of George W Bush as the product of macho Texas swagger was a startling original idea. Later on, I changed my mind about this facile opinion, because while Bush was a Texas ranch owner and an evangelical Christian, he was also a product of New England society. But needless to say, for many years, "Bush was a Texan" was one of the foremost truisms of US politics.
A second flashback, to when I was 19 and started college in Vermont. To get to Vermont, I had taken a Greyhound bus from Missoula, Montana to New York, New York and then a second bus up to Rutland, Vermont, where I got into town a week before the start of semester. When we started our orientation, and I met my fellow students, I was sometimes surprised at our conversations. I remember asking someone who lived on Long Island whether they went to New York City often. "I've been there once or twice, didn't really like it" was the answer I received. Perhaps that is an extreme example, but in general, I found that the students at my "small liberal arts college" were not the worldly travelers I had assumed, but had often spent their life in their hometowns, and considered a city a few hundred miles away to be a different world. Rochester, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston were all different galaxies, and many people from one had never been to another. In my innocence, I had painted all of that area as pretty much "The East". The thing about the East is that the cities are large enough to be self-contained. There is often not reason to travel between them. And so we reach a certain paradox: New York City is the most cosmopolitan city in the world, but people there often have a short horizon. Philadelphia and Boston are at the edges of the world, and Cleveland is well beyond it. New Yorkers, it seems, can be rather provincial, and their knowledge of the great wider outside world takes place when they drive an hour into Pennsylvania, come to a place where you can barely hear the freeway, and they think they are in the wilderness.
So say we had a President from New York City. Not just incidentally from New York City, but famous for being part of New York City. A president who surrounded himself with New Yorkers. A president whose knowledge of US geography and society was formed by the type of myopia you get from New York City, where a 2 hour trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was considered to be a trip into the hinterlands. Would the common association be as clear in this case as it was between George W Bush and Texas? It would seem logical enough that this would be the case, but instead, the common narrative might be that the New York President is actually from the wild hinterlands, the only person who can understand the real America, which is defined as a town that is so small it only has one freeway exit. And if such a thing were to happen, someone might think how much easier it would if we could just call a New Yorker a New Yorker, admit that the world has changed, and that the provincialism of a city that leaves its garbage out on bags on the sidewalks and doesn't even have flat screen TVs in its subway stations is holding the rest of us back.