In 2010, strategic-minded New York Republican political consultants wanted to nominate Rick Lazio to run against Andrew Cuomo in the governor’s race, but the actual Republican voters of the Empire State preferred Carl Paladino. This tells you all you need to know about the “moderation” of right-wing rank-and-file New Yorkers. Rick Lazio is a nice-looking, relatively bright Vassar-educated guy who had worked as the executive assistant district attorney for Suffolk County before serving four terms in Congress. He ran a presentable if doomed campaign against Hillary Clinton when she first sought Pat Moynihan’s U.S. Senate seat. Paladino is kind of a cross between Archie Bunker, Sarah Palin, David Duke and Donald Trump. He most resembles Maine’s ridiculous governor, Paul LePage, and he’s most famous for sending racist and raunchy emails to his friends in the construction business. He lost to Cuomo 61%-34%.
Keep this in mind when you read the following:
A stunningly distracted crowd of hundreds of Republicans almost entirely ignored Ted Cruz’s speech at the New York City GOP gala on Thursday night, instead chattering at their dinner tables, standing and taking selfies. Several casually left the dinner altogether.
The crowd’s stark disregard for Cruz’s remarks followed months of controversy over Cruz’s suggestion in January that Donald Trump has “New York values.”
The term spoken derogatorily by Cruz led to skepticism of Cruz’s ability to perform well in Tuesday’s primary on the home turf of Trump, a native New Yorker.
“I mean, [Cruz] blew it when he did the New York Values thing — that was a bad point,” said Ron Shindel, a Republican in attendance who also serves as the New York Police Department’s commanding officer of the World Trade Center. “But this is Trumpville — this is Trump town. I imagined the overwhelming support of Trump.”
Trump is popular with New York Republicans, it’s true, but not with the neoconservative braintrust which finds him repellent and unacceptable in every respect. His appeal is much more Yonkers and Staten Island than Manhattan. For example, take this guy:
This is the kind of attitude that drew Chris Szymanski to support Trump. A Polish immigrant, Szymanski, 62, lives on Staten Island and sells diamonds in midtown Manhattan. He says he wants a strong, almost authoritarian leader. Riding home on the ferry in a suit and tie, flipping through a newspaper, Szymanski compares Trump to Russia’s president.
“There are two men I respect in this world: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump,” he says. “They are strong leaders with big follow-up. They solve problems. They have a strong mind, resolution, character.”
Szymanski explains what he considers New York values: “Strong, dynamic, confident and patriotic.” He says Trump embodies them all and is the solution to what ails the country.
“He will fix it all,” he says. “Look at what he did in his life. Look at his kids, his empire. Don’t you see a pattern? Quality. Honesty. Resolution. Success.”
While the Crazification Factor has been pegged at 27%, it may run as high as 34% in New York State. The state does attract a certain kind of social striver:
“He’s just the man, right?” says Jimmy Dawson, 20, just back from modeling Givenchy’s new line on a runway in Paris. On the [Staten Island] ferry, Dawson looks incognito, save for his red “Make America Great Again” cap.
“It’s his wealth, his attitude,” he adds. “Look at what he’s done. It’s inspiring. Who wouldn’t want to have that life? Who doesn’t want to be rich? This is New York.”
Trump wouldn’t be where he is in life if there weren’t people like Jimmy Dawson who are willing to buy what he’s selling.
But New York City is not Trump Town, and that will become obvious if he faces off against a Democrat in the general election. The vast majority of New Yorkers roll their eyes at Trump and have been laughing at his tabloid-antics for decades now. And this includes the Republican intelligentsia of the city who tolerate Trump about as well as Ted Knight tolerated Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack.