Paul Waldman writes in the LA Times about the fetishizing of small towns in presidential politics (prompted by Rick Perry's bragging about his roots in good old Paint Creek, Texas):
As America becomes increasingly urbanized, we might one day hear a presidential candidate talk about all the valuable things she learned growing up in New York or Los Angeles or Chicago. She might talk about how living close together forces people to tolerate one another's foibles, how encounters with people from many nations forced her to see things from others' perspectives, how the city's offerings of art, music and theater taught her to appreciate both high and low culture, and how exposure to a whirring hub of commerce supplied valuable lessons about the country's economic life.
We might hear a candidate talk that way — someday. But for now, we're much more likely to hear that the communities with values are those that are small, isolated and homogeneous.
Alas, this is another way that conservatives and Republicans have defined public debate for all of us. The GOP gets almost no support in major cities, and this seems to suit the party just fine. Partly by default, the Democrats have near-universal support in big cities, so their presidential candidates see no percentage in talking about urban issues — or bragging about living in New York or Chicago.
This will change when Republicans are forced, by demographic change, to do what they can to avoid complete wipe-outs in densely populated areas. But that day is still a ways off; even New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in running for the GOP nomination in 2008, campaigned as some kind of a suburban mole who had infiltrated Gotham's City Hall rather than a proud resident of the world's greatest metropolis.
By the way, I've lived in the Boston area most of my life, so I know that urban politicians can be at least as small-minded as Perry. "I've lived in [South Boston, Malden, whatever] all my life" is often the biggest (sole?) credential for someone running for mayor, state representative, etc. I don't know why I'm supposed to prefer such a candidate to someone who's lived in many places and seen how different cities (or even different neighborhoods!) succeed or fail at solving problems. To me, "I've always lived here" is like saying, "I've never been curious or ambitious enough to try living anywhere else."