The cordial relationship between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz was officially thrown down the gutter during Thursday night’s Republican primary debate.
The two sparred over the Texas senator’s eligibility to run for president, with Cruz getting the upper hand in the fight over his Canadian birth disqualifying him from the White House.
But Trump won the next battle over the billionaire’s “New York values.” In response to a moderator’s question as to what he meant by The Donald embodying those values tied to his hometown, Cruz doubled-down on the assertion by insisting the denizens of New York City are socially liberal, obsessed with money and aren’t really conservative.
“Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan,” said the candidate considered the favorite to win Iowa.
Trump hit back hard at Cruz’s line of attack by mentioning the Manhattanite who founded the conservative movement, William F. Buckley, and how the nation was inspired by the city coming together in the destructive aftermath of 9/11.
“We rebuilt downtown Manhattan and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers. And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made,” Trump said. (RELATED: Trump Stuns Cruz Into Silence During ‘New York Values’ Fight)
The Republican front-runner was able to nimbly switch the discussion over from the values over the stereotypical New York high-living liberal to the character of the average people who live in America’s largest urban locale.
Now New York values could be seen as something positive in the eyes of a Republican electorate. Cruz, admitting he had lost the battle, later apologized to those who took offense at his statement in a rather tactical statement.
“I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers who have been abandoned by liberal politicians. I apologize for the working men and women of New York who are denied jobs — jobs that have been plentiful just south of Pennsylvania — because Gov. Cuomo bans fracking. I apologize to all the pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-Second Amendment New Yorkers who Gov. Cuomo brazenly told have no place in the state of New York because that’s not who New Yorkers are,” Cruz said on Sean Hannity’s radio show.
The non-apology apology was an attempt by Cruz to shift the meaning of New York values back to the political biases of Manhattan’s liberal elite, but it’s not likely to have the same sticking power against Donald Trump. The real estate mogul arguably adopted the mantle of New York values — along with the mantle of anger — during Thursday’s debate as a term for the virtues upheld by the average northeasterner.
However, Trump’s domination of the exchange didn’t convince conservatives who are critical of Trump-mania from continuing to promote it. Radio host and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson declared on Twitter before the debate “New York City is not America,” and other right-wing personalities happily jumped on the #NYValues hashtag to tweet mocking examples of the city’s depravity after the event’s conclusion.
Of course, the intention behind the invocation of New York values is not to demonize the working men and women who happen to live in the fourth most populous state or elsewhere in the Northeast. Cruz and other conservatives who’ve adopted this attack are trying to paint Trump as a card-carrying member of the urban liberal elite which spits upon traditional values and wishes to impose their progressive cosmopolitanism on the entire nation.
But by giving it a name particular to a region, it embeds a geographical conflict into a conservative message. Rural vs. Urban. Midwest vs. Eastern Seaboard. North vs. South. If Cruz is looking for a term to alienate potential GOP voters, then he might’ve hit the jackpot with New York values.
That’s why there’s a reason Republicans need to show some restraint in embracing the New York values line.
Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were both able to win their respective two terms in office due to appeals to primarily urban, working-class voters who traditionally voted Democratic. Many of them lived in places in or not too far from New York. Like conservative-minded people everywhere, these people love their state and region and resent any rhetoric which paints their home as inferior in moral upstanding to that of another part of the country.
And if New York City is not truly a part of America, then why does 9/11 form such a core element in conservative rhetoric?
As even Cruz admits, there’s people everywhere who are being screwed over by the politics of liberal elites — even in New York. They live in pretty much every major urban center, including cities in deep-red states like Cruz’s Texas and Erickson’s Georgia.
Not only that, but it is a little rich for Cruz to be condemning New York values when he himself is a double Ivy League graduate and his wife is a Goldman Sachs executive. That same Wall Street firm lent him a loan which his 2012 Senate campaign desperately needed. (RELATED: Ted Cruz Admits To ‘Inadvertent Filing Error’ After Not Disclosing Goldman Sachs Loan)
Ridiculing New York values might be a nice pitch in Iowa for Cruz to throw at Trump, but it runs the risk of handicapping his campaign in many parts of the country. We all know what is meant by the term, and there’s plenty of other ways to skewer liberal elites without antagonizing an entire region and an entire demographic.