By Tom Ehrich
Now that coy anti-Semitism has entered right-wing political discourse -- to be followed, no doubt, by overt anti-Semitism -- we should be clear just how offensive "New York values" could be to GOP candidate Ted Cruz.
In political double-talk, you see, "New York" is code for "Jewish." Not only was Cruz accusing Donald Trump of cozying up to New York "liberals," but to Jews, as well. In the right-wing's galaxy of contempt, Jews fit in nicely with Mexicans, immigrants, African-Americans, women, gays, labor unions, scientists, academics, journalists -- all of the dreaded "other" categories who threaten white male prerogatives.
Ted, it's worse than you know. For while New York City does indeed have 1.5 million Jews among its 8 million residents, the city also has enormous populations of Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Africans, swarthy Europeans, Hispanics, Muslims, world-class scientists, world-class academics -- all the people you hate are here.
What's even worse, they get along. That's the real offense of "New York values." People get along. A mosque and a synagogue can share a block. Indians and Pakistanis open restaurants together. A white mayor can have an African-American wife. In Jackson Heights, it's estimated 140 nationalities coexist in peace. Every time I walk in Manhattan, I hear a dozen languages being spoken -- and no gun-toting Texan is telling them they should "learn English or go home."
As of the 2010 census, whites are now the minority in New York City. No one blinked an eye when that news went out.
Yes, we have problems. Law enforcement still targets young black men for unfair treatment. We occasionally see hate crimes in those areas where orthodox Jews live alongside gentiles. Competition among Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans can turn violent. The income inequality here would stagger even a Texan. Gangs make life tough in some areas.
The difference, though, is that we see these as problems. We don't take hatred as normative, to be celebrated and exploited. We don't unleash right-wing politicians to foment bigotry as a path to power.
The offense of New York, you see, is that you can't sell hatred and bigotry here. You can sell anything else, from liberalism to conservatism, from Democratic to Republican, from patrician to pompous to prosaic to pedestrian. There's room here for a blowhard developer with no taste or class, for Princetonians, for Jets fans and Giants fans, for religions of every flavor, for sexual diversity, and for endless quantities of Thai food -- and not just when the United Nations is in session and the city goes into lockdown mode to keep the crazies at bay. It's open and tolerant all the time.
That's the offense of "New York values." The city works because it is open and tolerant. Ted, you should try it sometime. You, too, could learn to live without fear.