I recently suppressed my gag reflex long enough to investigate Ted Cruz’s campaign website, which has more in common with the manifesto of a paranoid schizophrenic than it does a presidential candidate. Pages and pages devoted to the issues do naught but regurgitate his considerable record of fighting against popular policies, remonstrating his enemies with a buffet of sound bites to reinforce the message that he, and he alone, is the true conservative. One part of the website comes close to calling for an armed insurrection against the government. Another part calls for something eerily similar to global domination. It’s a wild ride.
In many ways, Cruz singularly embodies the Republican Party’s steady drive off the political cliff. Though the party has for a long time been the first choice for -ists and -phobes of all stripes, its fire and brimstone rhetoric seems to have become the norm, rather than the exception, in recent years. In fact, five-time Republican Senator Barry Goldwater predicted this well, when he once remarked that if Christofascists and preachers took over the Republican Party, you could “kiss politics goodbye” and abandon all hopes of bipartisanship or compromise.
Of course, Goldwater was no moderate. He is credited with formulating Nixon’s Southern strategy, and was repeatedly endorsed by chapters of the KKK during his 1964 presidential run (Goldwater banned them from campaigning for him, but the fact that they wanted to is troubling anyway). But despite the hypocrisy, history has proven him right, and the virtues that Cruz in particular extols, on his website and in the debates, seem to be the same vices that Goldwater warned against.
Like other Republican candidates, Cruz does see gun-wielding white men as a beleaguered and marginalized group, unnecessarily burdened by the restrictions of a gay-infested socialist government. But unlike his contemporaries, Cruz is not content to just secure this group their facile and arrogant freedoms – he actually wants to enlarge their influence and initiate what he calls a “culture of life, marriage, and family” in America. It’s not enough that the government be brought to his knees; citizens who don’t conform must be too.
Under his administration, which promises to rapidly expand state power and adhere to “small government” principles simultaneously, Cruz would immediately seek to destroy the hard-won victories of the various civil rights movements. He seeks to investigate Planned Parenthood on the first day of his assuming office, even though the allegations that would rest upon this investigation have proven to be flat-out false. He also wishes to address the “crisis” of same-sex marriage and transgender acceptance, which involves open defiance of the rule of law, and involves fraternizing with pastors who want the death penalty for homosexuality. This is serious and frightening stuff.
Alongside his violently pro-life policies, Cruz is also unironically in favour of the death penalty, in no small part because it reminds us of the “preciousness of life”. This is one of the more crass hypocrisies in his worldview, but by no means the only one. In fact most of Cruz’s policies seem to involve open arrogance in one way or another, an arrogance bolstered by faith and American exceptionalism, a coupling which proves to be noxious even to some fellow conservatives.
But beyond America’s borders, which Cruz hopes to preserve through biometric scanners, attack dogs and barbed wire, the Texan Senator has big, big plans for the rest of the world.
Attack Clinton’s foreign policy though he may, Cruz has remarkably similar views to the Democratic nominee when it comes to the touchy subject of Israel. In fact, that assessment is probably unfair to Clinton – she may throw herself at Israel’s feet whenever the opportunity arises, but Cruz still manages to out-whacko her, to the point where he would defend Israel’s “interests” over the interests of literally anybody else.
His online section devoted entirely to Israel states: “We should move to defund the United Nations if it continues its anti-Israel bias and withdraw federal funding from any American university that boycotts Israel”, and “A Cruz administration will on day one recognize Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of Israel”. Cruz actually and seriously seems to believe that America can choose to ignore the rulings of international human rights courts if he disagrees with them. With Cruz at the helm, America will be even more alone than she already is.
Crusader Cruz also has big plans for the Middle East more generally, which unpredictably involve racial suspicion towards refugees and the ubiquitous presence of ground troops in various countries that haven’t asked for them. On Iraq and Syria, Cruz buys into the white supremacist myth that Arabs are unable to govern themselves and need a steady white American hand to keep them from killing each other. The parallels with Manifest Destiny are oozing out of his campaign.
In many ways, Cruz is not the quintessential politician, but he does share the Republicans’ extremely cynical and negative interpretation of American liberty. He’s just a bit more messianic about it. Under a Cruz administration, citizens would have the divine right to go bankrupt in pursuit of healthcare, the freedom to submit themselves to Christofascism in schools, and the God-given right to have children against their will. Across the globe, citizens of sovereign countries would be free to surrender their rights too, so that Cruz can take the American Empire to new, shinier, and whiter heights.
Donald Trump may share a lot of Cruz’s beliefs, but Cruz has the intelligence to implement them, and that should scare us a lot more.