Politically experienced, manipulative and unwavering, Ted Cruz is receiving the GOP’s backing precisely because he won’t hesitate to put words into action
This presidential election might go down as one of the craziest, most divisive elections in U.S. history. A large part of it can be attributed to the fact the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination is none other than real estate tycoon-cum-reality star Donald Trump. Trump has received an incredible amount of press for his distasteful and shocking rhetoric towards marginalised communities. Yet perplexingly enough, Trump’s brash approach to politics has been embraced in lieu of the GOP establishment.
After establishment sweetheart Marco Rubio dropped out of the race, the GOP had nowhere left to turn except to Senator Ted Cruz, who trails Trump by just a little over 250 delegates. Previously known as Congress’ resident ‘wacko bird’ (even amongst his own party members), Cruz is now receiving endorsements from Republican bigwigs such as Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, and Lindsey Graham, who believe he is the party’s best shot at preventing Trump from winning the nomination. Without a doubt, Cruz is more knowledgeable about policy than Mr Trump. However, I would argue that Cruz winning the nomination is far more frightening than Trump doing so.
Though Cruz is more well spoken than the Donald, there are significant overlaps in their beliefs. Following the attacks in Paris, Trump stated he supported surveillance of Muslims within the US. In December, he one-upped himself by infamously calling for ‘a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’. Both Democrats and Republicans answered Trump’s comments with widespread condemnation. Yet, as desperately as the GOP want to distance themselves from Trump, they cannot hide the fact that even Cruz is a zealot himself. Just last week, Cruz issued a statement regarding the attacks in Brussels, calling for a similar ban on refugees, and for police surveillance of Muslim neighbourhoods:
‘We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized’.
Yet this extreme rhetoric is nothing new from Cruz; his stance on issues ranging from LGBT rights to foreign affairs is exemplary of this. In June 2015, Cruz called the federal legalisation of same-sex marriage ‘some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history’, and promised to make his opposition a cornerstone of his campaign. Several months later, Cruz disparaged transgender youth, claiming the Obama Administration was forcing schools to ‘let little boys shower with little girls’, citing this as a reason for wanting to ‘abolish the Department of Education’. His record on environmental policy and women’s rights is equally abysmal; Cruz believes that there is no scientific evidence to support global warming and that abortion should be outlawed, the only exception being when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life.
And, in perhaps the most terrifying moment of his campaign, Cruz has even advocated war crimes. During a stump speech in Iowa, he promised to ‘carpet-bomb ISIS’. This shocked many, as carpet-bombing refers to bombing an area indiscriminately and is considered a war crime by the standards of the Geneva Convention. When asked to clarify during the GOP debate in Las Vegas, the senator stood by his choice of words.
So if Cruz’s remarks are no less incendiary or ignorant than Donald Trump’s, why is he still seen as the better candidate? This brings us back to the most notable difference between Trump and Cruz: the latter is actually an accomplished politician. In 2013, Cruz was one of the leading Republican politicians responsible for the government shutdown — a ploy that essentially held the US government hostage unless Obamacare was defunded. To an extent, Cruz’s crusade against Obamacare was effective; the government was forced into shutdown, and a compromise regarding the budget was made.
Furthermore, Trump is a wild card: he has drawn ire from his Republican challengers for changing parties over the years, and more recently, for his stance on issues such as healthcare, abortion and torture (to name a few). Some political experts even claim that if elected to office, Trump may nominate moderates, or liberals to positions of power. Cruz, on the other hand has always had far-right convictions and is unlikely to waiver. Thus, if elected to the most powerful position in the world, there is no doubt he would set about accomplishing exactly what he promised. And considering his political know-how, it is far likelier we would see such discriminatory policy become the law of the land.
It seems that when the Republican Party rebukes Donald Trump, it’s not necessarily for his bigotry. Rather, they despise Donald Trump for his inability to mask his bigotry behind political rhetoric and eloquence, thus garnering him a level of infamy only rivalled by Martin Shrkeli. When up against either Clinton or Sanders, this makes Trump unelectable in the eyes of the GOP; the polls support this, as Trump would lose by 11.2 points and 17.4 points respectively. Yes, Cruz would lose by fewer points to either Democratic candidate, meaning a less embarrassing defeat for his party. However, turning to Cruz doesn’t resolve the GOP’s biggest problem: a dark, oozing underbelly of ignorance amongst its politicians and their supporters.