Born in 1970, Rafael Edward (“Ted”) Cruz is a young man who seems to have a safe Senate seat from Texas, and can look forward to decades on the national stage — essentially the ideological successor to “movement conservatives” like William Buckley and Jesse Helms, without Buckley’s charm and sharp wit, or Helms’ “ah shucks” small-town modesty and gentility.
Cruz can do this if he avoids scandals and has the patience to develop a career as a legislator. It’s also assuming he is not revealed to be too extreme and self-centered even for Texas, as some Bush family loyalists suspect, and that his long-shot presidential aspirations do not come to fruition in 2016. He had nothing much to lose by announcing his candidacy for president — at the least, he builds up a fundraising list and political action network among evangelicals and Tea Party conservatives . In just the first eight days of his candidacy, he raised more than $4 million in small donations, according to the Wall Street Journal. Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College, observes in Salon:
Many Republicans believe they can work together with Democrats to hash out legislation. These are the people Cruz disdains as “the mushy middle.” In contrast, Movement Conservatives like Cruz believe that rich businessmen are society’s proper leaders and that any government activism to level the economic playing field destroys freedom. They believe their view is absolutely right; to compromise on anything would lose everything. Cruz does not have to win the White House to win the war. So long as he can grab headlines and whip up voters, Movement Conservatives can continue to hold enough congressional seats to continue to block legislation and defund the government. Then they can do as Buckley hoped: stand athwart history and make it stop.
A graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, Cruz is clearly a quick study who impresses even opponents with his formidable debating style. Using mnemonics, he can speak for hours without notes, and memorized the entire U.S. Constitution in high school. Cruz’s parents split up when he was a toddler, but reconciled after Ted’s father, Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, experienced a religious awakening. This might explain Ted’s uncompromising faith — it literally held his parents’ marriage together for years. On the other hand, it may have made him egocentric. President Obama told a joke about Cruz as the White House Correspondents’ Dinner that reflects the suspicion of many:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has compared himself to Galileo for denying the existence of man-made climate change: “Galileo believed the Earth revolves around the sun. Ted Cruz believes the Earth revolves around Ted Cruz,” Obama quipped.
Cruz’s father is Ted’s most significant mentor, and a frequent substitute for the candidate on the campaign trail. Ted talked about his parents in his presidential announcement speech at Liberty University.
“Imagine a young married couple, living together in the 1970s, neither one of them has a personal relationship with Jesus. They have a little boy and they are both drinking far too much. They are living a fast life,” said Ted Cruz. “When I was 3, my father decided to leave my mother and me. We were living in Calgary at the time, he got on a plane and he flew back to Texas, and he decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and he didn’t want to be a father to his 3-year-old son.” Cruz’s father was invited to a Bible study class at Clay Road Baptist Church in Houston, where he “gave his life to Jesus Christ,” Ted Cruz said. Ted Cruz said that his father bought a plane ticket and returned to the household. “There are people who wonder if faith is real. I can tell you, in my family there’s not a second of doubt, because were it not for the transformative love of Jesus Christ,… I would have been raised by a single mom without my father in the household.”
Ted’s parents stayed together during his childhood, but after their oil business failed, divorced in 1997. His father became a pastor of a non-denominational church. By that time, the younger Cruz had finished law school (See Ted Cruz’s “poignant family story,”McClatchy Newspapers). Jeffrey Tobin wrote an in-depth profile of Cruz for The New Yorker in 2014, called “The Absolutist”:
The heart of Cruz’s legal career was a sustained and often successful undertaking to use the courts for conservative ends, like promoting the death penalty, lowering the barriers between church and state, and undermining international institutions and agreements.
He quotes Cruz:
“In both law and politics, I think the essential battle is the meta-battle of framing the narrative,” Cruz told me. “As Sun Tzu said, Every battle is won before it’s fought. It’s won by choosing the terrain on which it will be fought. So in litigation I tried to ask, What’s this case about? When the judge goes home and speaks to his or her grandchild, who’s in kindergarten, and the child says, ‘Paw-Paw, what did you do today?’ And if you own those two sentences that come out of the judge’s mouth, you win the case… Cruz’s facility with constitutional argument draws admiration even from those who do not share his views. “Ted is able to use erudite constitutional analysis with politically appealing slogans—that’s a rare talent,” Walter Dellinger, the former acting Solicitor General in the Clinton Administration, who has debated Cruz, told me. “The only problem is that Ted’s view of the Constitution—based on states’ rights and a narrow scope of federal power—was rejected at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and then was resurrected by John C. Calhoun, and the Confederates during the Civil War, when it failed again. It’s still around now. I think it’s wrong, but Ted does a very sophisticated version of that view.”
- NYTimes: “His federalist views are incoherent: he wants states to be free to experiment with marijuana legalization, but attacked Mr. Obama for not cracking down on states that do so…Privacy is sacrosanct, and government should not get between you and your doctor, unless you’re a woman who wants to avoid or end a pregnancy…Mr. Cruz says he is a champion of personal liberty, too, and gay people who love each other are demanding their liberty to marry, just not in a way he finds acceptable…No data support Mr. Cruz’s claim that insurance premiums are “skyrocketing” under Obamacare. Immigrants, legal and otherwise, are building this country, and efforts to vacuum-seal the border would continue to fail, and the country would suffer from its hostility to its immigrants no matter what Mr. Cruz says.”
- Times Topics: Ted Cruz.
- Ted Cruz and the New Politics of Texas
- Ted Cruz Pop Quiz