No single remark has been more dissected over the last week than Ted Cruz's claim, on Iowa radio, that Donald Trump has "New York Values." The remark was a point of contention again last night in the Fox Business debate. For what it's worth, I think Trump has gotten the better of Cruz on this exchange, and Cruz should probably drop the claim, apologize, and move on.
What's interesting about the debate over Cruz's remark is that both candidates are expressing a fundamental truth about how America views New York City.
Ted Cruz is right that most of the rest of America doesn't really share a lot in common with New York, or New Yorkers. Cruz, speaking to an Iowa audience, was tapping into a very real sentiment that exists in flyover country that New Yorkers look down their noses at the portion of America that exists west of the Hudson river. Moreover, Cruz is right that New York City is more liberal than almost all of the rest of the country, especially on issues like abortion (New York City's abortion rate is astronomically high, even compared to California).
New Yorkers are loud, brash, and to the rest of America, can seem unnecessarily hostile and cynical. I remember the first time I took my son to New York City and we stepped outside of LGA to hail a cab, and he was astonished at the noise, and the honking in particular. "Good Lord," he said. "Don't they know it's rude to honk here?"
Trump is right, though, that New York and New Yorkers represent a lot of what's great about America. New Yorkers work hard. They hustle. They build giant, ostentatious structures and then cynically refuse to stop and look at them. They are, as Trump pointed out, uniquely brave and resilient in the face of adversity. Additionally, New York City (and Manhattan in particular) places a high emphasis on education and learning, which is why (as Trump pointed out last night), New York City has a lengthy history of producing leading conservative intellectual lights, even though the city at large is incredibly liberal.
To America, New York City is like their loudmouthed, drunken uncle who is famous for having played bass for a hair metal band in the 80s. Sure, like Ted Cruz says, they're kind of difficult to be around for Thanksgiving dinner and you maybe don't want them spending too much time around your kids for fear that your kids might pick up their bad habits.
But like Trump said (essentially), New York City is our loudmouthed, drunken uncle, and anyone outside the family who criticizes them is going to get punched in the face, and besides that we'll point out that they're just jealous of his success anyway.
I certainly understand why Cruz said what he did, but in the final analysis, attacking NYC is not a smart play and shouldn't be repeated.