'New York Values' Is Blowing up in Ted Cruz's Face

January 15th 2016

Alex Mierjeski

An off-hand — and probably now regrettably less-than-calculated — jab at Donald Trump's "New York values" has landed Ted Cruz in the hot seat.

The presidential candidate initially made the comments earlier this week during a radio interview, then again on Fox News. Finally, at Thursday night's Republican debate in South Carolina, Trump took the Texas senator to task, calling up the terror attacks and aftermath of September 11, 2001 to illustrate actual New York values and explain that other prominent conservatives have also come from Manhattan. (Cruz's intimation was that an honest Republican born and raised in a liberal hotbed is an oxymoron.)

Related: What We Learned from Last Night's GOP Debate

Trump on NY 9/11

But for some, Cruz's barb — which was mostly met with good humor — called up a dar, older strain of American discrimination.

Related: New York Daily News To Ted Cruz: "Drop Dead"

For much of the first half of the 20th Century, references to "New York" were often slanderous code for Jews and other European immigrants from Italy, Ireland, and Poland. Many of the most rancorous political debates of that time pitted rural Americans against new immigrants living in cities such as New York. And many people had no trouble calling out "New York" as meaning "un-American." This rhetoric cropped up notably in the 1928 election where Republican Alfred E. Smith, a Catholic, was savaged for his seemingly un-American background. Here's a cartoon from that election:

Republican Al Smith

Following the debate, some have noted that Cruz's line of attack last night evokes memories of the anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant language of the past.

The Jewish Press newspaper ran a story with a clip fom the show "The West Wing" that featured a "New York sense of humor" quip:

Related: Donald Trump Just Told Millions of People a Big Lie About Syrian Refugees

Others had reason to believe that Cruz's jab was wholly misplaced from the get-go: