September 26, 2006

How About That

Push polls in Wyoming, where kooky Republican Barbara Cubin is running for re-election, call Democratic challenger Gary Trauner a "New York liberal."

Gary Trauner is Jewish.

Is this code, or am I paranoid?

Posted by Matt Weiner at September 26, 2006 08:36 PM

Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean it's not code.

Posted by: The Modesto Kid at September 27, 2006 08:02 AM

IS he from New York? And might he be described as a liberal?

Posted by: Matt's mom at September 27, 2006 03:17 PM

I'm reminded of a remark by Stanley Kunitz, the poet (who recently died at the age of 100 or so). Or possibly by Maxine Kumin about Stanley Kunitz. He or she said that he was commonly described as an urban poet, though he lived in the country (and incidentally celebrated his garden and gardening).

Posted by: Matt's mom at September 27, 2006 03:19 PM

He got an MBA from Stern, don't know if he was from New York before then. So, yes. And he's surely more liberal than Cubin.

It's just that when I saw "New York liberal" I instantly wondered if he was Jewish, and I wouldn't have given the name alone. (His name is much less Jewish than Wyoming's Episcopalian governor, Dave Freudenthal.) So I wondered if that was a signal, or if I was unusual in associating that phrase with the tribe. Or, as Modesto suggests, both.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at September 27, 2006 03:30 PM

There was a West Wing bit like this.

My intuition says, "not code: New York liberal is enough of a slur by itself." And the West Wing dialogue didn't really resonate with me either. But then, I've never been to Wyoming.

FWIW, Trauner also did his undergraduate degree in New York (Colgate).

Posted by: Richard at October 5, 2006 06:22 AM

Colgate is not in New York! It's in Hamilton, southwest of Syracuse. Though that's probably close enough to New York for Wyoming.

Anyway, I think you're probably right, though I think there may be some possibly forgotten history of associating Hollywood and New York with Jews. That is, I think I read that somewhere.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at October 5, 2006 07:38 AM

I'd say the phrase can function as code, and has been used that way -- that doesn't establish that it is being used that way here. But 'New York' comes off meaning 'Jewish' to a whole bunch of people -- I just told a story at J&B's about everyone in my co-op in college thinking I was Jewish, for no reason I can think of other than my being a New Yorker.

Posted by: LizardBreath at October 5, 2006 09:10 AM

I've been to Wyoming, and I basically agree with Richard; "New York liberal" is fightin' words in the West, even aside from any association with Judaism. The association is there, though, and it may have an extra effect for some listeners. Shorter: could be code, but it doesn't really matter.

Posted by: teofilo at October 7, 2006 03:49 PM

Re: "Colgate is not in New York." It's in New York STATE, and so is Syracuse. Gosh, you'd think you grew up in New York City yourself.

Posted by: Matt's mom at October 10, 2006 02:52 PM

I don't think the "New York liberal" people are talking about those reds from Utica -- although in Wyoming, maybe they are.

I have to say, I'd be a little bit more comfortable thinking that "New York liberal" wasn't supposed to evoke Judaism if the Republicans could stop talking about George Soros for a second. Not that I think this is conscious anti-Semitism, but it makes me queasy.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at October 11, 2006 02:25 PM

Expecting Westerners to draw fine distinctions between New York City and the rest of New York is like expecting coast-dwellers to know the difference between Iowa and Indiana.

Posted by: Richard at October 13, 2006 09:51 AM

Barbara Cubin, born in Salinas, is herself a California fruitcake.

Okay, so she went to high school in Wyoming, I admit. But still, politics and real estate in the West are both mostly about people who moved in 15 years ago calling people who moved in 10 years ago unwelcome newcomers.

(native Californian)

Posted by: Ben at October 14, 2006 02:51 AM

native Californian

For like two years.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at October 14, 2006 01:03 PM

"Native" from the Latin natus, to be born. Ben was born there, I can attest. (Ohh, the secret word.) And he lived there as an adult for about six years.

Posted by: Matt's mom at October 16, 2006 04:33 PM