New York is "real" America: Cruz's "New York values" insult exposes the bullying streak of Republican politics

Ted Cruz's NYC slam feeds into a long history of Republicans trying to exclude urban Americans

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published April 8, 2016 3:01PM (EDT)

Ted Cruz at CPAC, March 4, 2016.   (Jeff Malet,
Ted Cruz at CPAC, March 4, 2016. (Jeff Malet,

Few things are more satisfying in the world of politics than watching chickens come home to roost. And so it is with Ted Cruz and his swipe about "New York values" from all the way back in January, which was roughly 6.85 years ago in primary season time. It was during a CNN debate, and with a satisfied smirk that suggested he had just consumed a live kitten, he rolled out this attack about Trump having "New York values," full with the you-know-what-I-mean eyebrow action going on.

But just in case we didn't get his point, he did say that New York values "are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro–gay marriage" and they "focus around money and the media."

It was an attack he'd been trying out on the trail for awhile, complete with the nudge-wink language to make the audience think they're sharing a private joke about all those perverts with the fancy clothes in that pervert city. His immense self-satisfaction over what he clearly thought was a killer insult was immediately, in the great comic tradition, undermined when Trump pulled out the 9/11 retort any idiot could see was coming.

The universe clearly loves New York, because Cruz's weak little jab just keeps coming back to haunt him. He and his staff have learned in recent months that New York isn't just a city, but a large state with a Republican primary of its very own. Turns out it might not have been the greatest idea to reinforce his opponent's already substantial home team advantage by insinuating that the state, one of the most populous in the country, and the city, which is the biggest in the country, shouldn't count as real America.

But Cruz, continuing to labor under the belief that he's some kind of religious messiah, has decided to go ahead and make a play for New York anyway, even though even touching the foul soil of the modern day Gomorrah surely contaminates a soul as pure and righteous as his. The result has been a delicious slice of schadenfreude for those of us who were told that New York City (and perhaps the state at large?) is somehow un-American because people are accepting of their neighbors and know how to mind their own business.

The New York Daily News took the lead in offering one of those covers that makes one love living here, even when it's trash day in the middle of August.

Even better, Cruz is now trying to qualify his remarks, by saying he didn't mean all New Yorkers, just, you know, those New Yorkers. “The people of New York know exactly what those values are,” he said during a meet-and-greet in the Bronx where journalists reportedly outnumbered residents who could be bothered to come. "They’re the values of liberal Democratic politicians.” So why the need for snickering euphemisms, then?

Bill O'Reilly ran a segment Thursday night, trying to run interference for Cruz, and the whole thing was delightfully incoherent. "Now, the truth is, Cruz is right, New York City values are very left wing," he started. Okay, so the problem is, as Cruz has been saying, that the problem is that New York City is too tolerant and liberal, then?

"With that many folks, you have to be more aggressive even to get a hot dog," O'Reilly continued. "And some around the country consider that aggressiveness to be rude."

So somehow New Yorkers are bad because of their let's-all-get-along liberalism, but also bad because they're supposedly big bullies that will stomp on you to get a hot dog?

(That's a lie, by the way. Having moved to the city from Texas six years ago, one of the first things I noticed about New Yorkers is they are better at politely queueing up than any other place I've been in the country, probably because they have to do it way more often. New Yorkers are abrupt — not big on small talk and empty chatter — but they really aren't more rude or thoughtless than people are elsewhere.)

All this blather about rudeness is, of course, a cover-up for the actual act of aggression here, which is Cruz's attempts to demonize not just New Yorkers, but by implication, all Americans who live in racially and socially diverse urban areas. Or at least the people who like living that way, because they actually do believe that different people can live together peaceably without trying to police each other's sex lives or try to make other people conform to your narrow standards of how people ought to live.

Cruz is, of course, tapping into a long-standing conservative tradition of trying to define "real" America by the lifestyles of what are actually a minority of Americans: white conservatives living in rural or suburban areas. This theme was a big part of John McCain's 2008 campaign against Barack Obama, for the obvious reason that his opponent was both black and from Chicago, and the right has only gotten blunter about it since. (While simultaneously claiming that it's liberals who play "identity politics.")

This is subway grate level of hot air, and this whole "New York values" gambit shows how. O'Reilly waxing on about how rude and aggressive those evil liberals in New York City are sounds awfully empty in an election season when those supposedly salt-of-the-earth white conservatives are punching people at rallies. Right now, the headlines are being dominated by red state legislatures passing anti-trans laws that validate following women into bathrooms who offend you by having square jaws or by being tall, and demanding to see their birth certificates. That's vile and offensive and, oh yeah, rude.

And of course, you have Cruz himself snickering like an asshole about how "New York values" — referencing a city whose population is more than 8 times that of the entire state of Montana — are somehow not in line with  how real Americans (nudge, wink) think. Having someone jostle pass you on the sidewalk is tiddlywinks on the rude scale compared to that.

Trump is getting a lot of attention this election cycle for his divisive, aggressive style of politics, but all this shows that this mentality is not unique to him or his followers. On the contrary, it's baked right into the DNA of modern conservatism, which is all about the politics of bullying and exclusion. Every election cycle, Republicans play some form of this game, insinuating that some Americans are just more American than others. It's about time that they all got called out for it, every time they did it.

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

MORE FROM Amanda Marcotte

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Elections 2016 John Mccain New York Values Republican Primary Ted Cruz