Political pundits need to stop equating Ted Cruz’s destructive politics with intelligence.
The political narrative behind Ted Cruz’s campaign is that, even if he comes across as inauthentic, he is as brilliant as Republican presidential candidates come. One of his Harvard professors has publicly gushed about Cruz’s intelligence, and advised liberals not to underestimate him.
But is Cruz really that brilliant? Is his campaign glorious? I am not convinced. To me, Cruz seems merely opportunistic, and his lauded political stunts are acts of dishonest exacerbation of the Republican base’s already irrational and Fox News-conditioned, Pavlovian hatred of President Obama. I do not believe that it is a show of brilliance for Cruz to engineer a political coalition of people stuck in a platonic cave of a Fox & Friends-playing living room, angry at shadows of an impossibly abstract straw-man icon of their imagined Barack Hussein Obama [emphasis theirs].
The anti-Obama fervor is like reverse-prayer, or warding off a devil with sustained, hourly outrage. Literally: a poll by Public Policy Polling found that 13% of voters believe that Obama is the anti-Christ, including 22% of Romney voters. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz chooses not to speculate on Obama’s faith. Again, is this genius? It is the kind of interview maneuver that gives him a poll bump, but it’s a wink at best to his followers, or manipulation at worst of the electorate. Cruz, as a public leader, has a responsibility to raise the national discussion, but instead, he capitalizes on raising the nation’s conspiracy delusions.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Cruz indirectly answered that he does not believe Obama is a Christian. “The president’s faith is between him and God,” he said. “I’m not going to speculate on the president’s faith. What I will talk about is his policies. And his policies have been profoundly damaging to this country. Number one, his policies and this administration’s animosity to religious liberty and, in fact, antagonism to Christians has been one of the most troubling aspects of the Obama administration.”
Cruz is a puppeteer of the conservative Us Vs. Them war, and alludes to the idea that Obama is trying to take away Christians’ right to practice Christianity. And like all great fear mongers he strains for hyperbole: “We have seen a war on faith,” he said.
All of this maneuvering may be politically expedient, but is it smart? Cruz is certainly showing polling results with his political fear mongering, and has solidified his role as presidential candidate runner-up behind Donald Trump, but do the ends justify the means? I realize that I am collating intelligence with ethics, but shouldn’t ethics be an integral part of public service? Just because stoking people’s fears can easily win a candidate an election, does that make fear mongering the smartest political strategy?
Cruz certainly does have a propensity for fear, existential fear even. Remember when Ted Cruz told a frightened 3-year-old girl that the world was on fire because of Obama? This is the political brilliance with which Republican voters are impressed? Manipulating people’s unfounded fears with a campaign of mindlessly reflexive antagonism toward the government seems to me ideologically lazy, shamefully partisan and politically irresponsible.
Meanwhile, Cruz has pledged to abolish every executive order Obama has issued that he considers unconstitutional because they did not go through the legislative process in Congress. He has vowed to repeal Obamacare, which, ironically, is hypocritical because the ACA did, in fact, go through the legislative process in Congress, and was even upheld by the Supreme Court. The judicial body responsible for determining constitutionality determined that Obamacare is constitutional. And Cruz used to work at the Supreme Court! Did he forget how the judicial branch of American government works, or is he purposefully misleading voters for political gain? And his repeal efforts are also hypocritical because Cruz has flirted with the idea of getting his family’s healthcare through the Affordable Care Act.
But Cruz is serious about ending Obamacare, despite the fact that it has been in effect for two years without destroying America as Republicans predicted. He claims that Election 2016 is a referendum on Obamacare, and he is adamant that every other candidate should be as one-track minded as him. His website states, “Any candidate not willing to make 2016 a referendum on repealing Obamacare should step aside.”
Cruz also wants to rip up the Iran nuclear deal and risk a new Middle Eastern war for political gain, too. He is bluffing foreign policy expertise, and he is willing to risk American lives to capitalize on conservative voters’ fears that Obama is a Muslim enemy to the US by capitulating American interests to Iran. Cruz’s toxic politics are clearly successful since his polling has risen dramatically, but I cannot agree that it is smart. His policy ideas have no substance, beneath their divisive rhetoric.
Take the Iran deal, for instance. If Cruz were to reimpose sanctions on Iran, its nuclear program would start right back up again, and America would descend into a spiral of militaristic threats and eventual war. Is steering a country into a destructive and entirely unnecessary war intelligent?
Besides the neoconservative warmongering, giving up the Iran deal would be a huge embarrassment for America globally. Political antagonisms have consequences, and Cruz is vowing to destroy the international multilateralism Obama has delicately cultivated over the last seven years. If a President Cruz sabotaged the Iran deal, Europe would open up trade with Iran anyway, Russia and China would ignore future US diplomatic efforts, and America would lose its resuscitated credibility because of yet another Republican administration’s childish insecurities of Napoleon-complexed American exceptionalism.
Cruz’s advocacy for returning to the gold standard is another example of substance-less rhetoric. I just wrote a 2,700-word piece this week on why returning to the gold standard is a terrible plan for America. Long story short: the gold standard is impractical, self-destructive, and extinct as an economic practice as every single country on Earth has abandoned it for good reason. But Cruz is vocally supportive of it.
I honestly have no idea if Cruz is badly misinformed on economics, or if he is simply and opportunistically supporting a return to the gold standard in order to capitalize further on the anti-government anarchy wing of laissez-faire conservatism. If Cruz was elected and actually forced America to return to the gold standard, the gold standard would cripple our economy and stunt the economic growth dramatically. It may be “politically brilliant” to campaign on, but is hurting the economy for ideologically partisan gain actually intelligent? Is supporting an idea that economists all over the world unanimously agree does not work well make Ted Cruz smart??
Cruz’s most dazzling rhetoric, however, comes at the expense of government in a general, abstractly grandiose production of verbal theater. Cruz loves to wax poetic about the “Washington Cartel,” and has big dreams for government downsizing.
Cruz has promised to abolish the IRS and the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, and Housing & Urban Development. In addition to these, Cruz has compiled a laundry list of government agencies, bureaus, commissions and programs that he promises to eliminate including the following:
Appalachian Regional Commission
Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative
Climate Research Funding of the Office of Research and Development
Climate Resilience Evaluation Awareness Tool
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Global Methane Initiative
Green Infrastructure Program
Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities
New Starts Transit Program
Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund
Presidential Election Campaign Fund
Regulation of CO2 Emissions from Power Plants and all Sources
Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Vehicles
Renewable Fuel Standard Federal Mandates
Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery
UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
UN Population Fund
Cruz’s website claims that these cuts are “merely a start,” and, of course, he has not offered any alternatives to combat the problems for which these governmental efforts are organized to solve. Note that many of them are related to climate change, an unmistakable threat to humanity growing more conspicuous every consecutive, record-breaking, annual temperature average. This list shows that Ted Cruz really has no interest in governmental regulation at all, and that a Cruz Administration would take the “public” out of public government.
Like contemporary conservatism as a whole, Ted Cruz has sold out to corporate interests, and it is not difficult to imagine which business entities might be leading the lobbying efforts against such public interests as air that doesn’t give us cancer, consumer protection against banks blatantly stealing our money, and salmon’s continued existence into the next generation.
Republicans have already tried laissez-faire governance twice, and the results were the Great Depression and the Great Recession. Selling out to corporate interests and betraying public interest is not smart politics. It is lazy at best, and villainous at worst.
And the worst part is that Republicans’ toxic politics are a result of two consecutive defeats by Obama’s liberalism. Ted Cruz’s campaign is the ultimate embodiment of sore-loser, minority-party partisanship, and his alleged political brilliance is simply a self-promoting realization that egregiously impotent governmental obstruction looks like quality public service to voters who have been erroneously convinced that the government is actively financing Islamic terrorism. By Ted Cruz himself!
And the worst part of it all is that these governmental cuts actually betray conservative philosophies. Let’s look at the UN Population Fund as an example. This UN agency’s stated purpose is “delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.” This is an international pro-life effort to nurture humanity across the globe, and Ted Cruz wants to ax it because it costs money. Bullshit like this is why I routinely write that conservatism is a sham: there is no philosophy anymore in conservative politics, and it has devolved into an unexamined ideology of privatized government that supersedes any other conservative political goal.
Another example in which Republicans have trampled on conservative ideals is conservation. Cruz wants the government to ignore climate change even as it destroys environments all across the world. Conservation and Conservatism are so closely intertwined that they have the same root word! Conservatives like Cruz who view the Earth’s destruction as collateral damage for corporate billionaires to try and become trillionaires is not intelligent in any way!
Cruz may have had a stellar collegiate debating career, he may have had a successful career as a lawyer arguing cases in front of the Supreme Court, he may have been elected to the Senate and made a national name for himself, and he may win the GOP nomination, but he is not smart. Cruz is opportunistically advocating stupid and bullshit politics, and he will never become the president because politics of fear and venom do not win. Because Cruz thinks otherwise, he cannot be very brilliant.