Monday, 18 April 2016

Focusing on Ted Cruz, madman of the Far Right

People will celebrate the defeat of Trump and then realise what they've got instead - the criminally- insane

Republican fear of Donald Trump fuels rise of Senator 'Ick' from Texas

Despised but well organised: Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz.
Despised but well organised: Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz. Photo: AP

18 April, 2016

New York: New Yorkers – Republicans and Democrats – don't get to vote for their preferred presidential candidates till Tuesday [local time], but Ted Cruz has already voted with his feet: he's taken his campaign off to other states, where he figures he'll have a better chance of scoring votes and winning delegates.

Quite sensible. In the Real Clear Politics average of polls on the Republican candidates in the New York primary, frontrunner Donald Trump is more than 36 points ahead of Cruz and the Texas senator becomes less popular by the day. Seriously, why hang around to be kicked in the teeth?

In various state-by-state primaries to date, Cruz lags Trump, in popular votes and convention delegates won. But tenacious in battle, the Texas Senator has caught up sufficiently, so much so that a mesmerized Republican establishment, that seemingly is hell bent on any candidate other than Trump, now is willing to accept Cruz as its saviour.

This Republican race is like a very cheap B-grade thriller – the innocents who are desperate to escape the clutches of a ghastly axe murderer [Trump], don't seem to realise that they are rushing into the embrace of another axe murderer  [Cruz], who is just as murderous and only slightly less ghastly than the other crazy guy.

Likeability' is a big polling issue. Time magazine talks about Cruz's 'legendry' unlikeability and in noting the candidate's need to overcome an 'ick' factor, it observed that a researcher had become a media sensation for his discussion on why Cruz had the kind of face you want to punch.

An unfriendly crowd? That never stopped Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz.
An unfriendly crowd? That never stopped Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz. Photo: AP

Cruz is oleaginous in appearance and style – very much as the BBC portrayed the irksome Pastor William Collins on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. And The New Yorker mocked his dress sense – 'like an IBM salesman circa 1975, in boxy blue suits, white shirts and red ties…black hair just long enough to be slicked back."

But for all that, Cruz is rated as having a very good, and improving chance of stealing the nomination, which Trump already claims as his own.

Blinded by his success in opinion polls and a mistaken belief that the primaries are beauty contests, Trump at first failed to notice Cruz's dogged rounding up of delegates who will support him over Trump when convention votes are taken – and when Trump did wake up to what was happening, he cried 'thief!'

Ted Cruz signs posters for his supporters at a campaign rally on Friday.
Ted Cruz signs posters for his supporters at a campaign rally on Friday. Photo: AP

Or more bizarrely, as in Wyoming on Saturday, Trump made no effort – other than a planned visit to the Republican National Convention in Casper Wyoming by Sarah Palin, which later was cancelled. 

Cruz, however, was on the ground and scooped up all of Wyoming's 14 convention delegates. Same deal in Colorado earlier in the week, when Cruz bagged all of that state's 34 delegates.

There's an emerging consensus among analysts that Trump will not win the 1237 convention delegates needed to clinch the nomination before the GOP convention scheduled for Cleveland Ohio in July; and that Cruz will have caught up sufficiently in his tally of delegates to make him a plausible alternative who, in the arcane voting procedures of the convention, will outstrip Trump to become the Republican nominee.

Donald Trump has been surprised by Ted Cruz's political acumen.
Donald Trump has been surprised by Ted Cruz's political acumen. Photo: AP

End-of-convention parties will celebrate how clever they all were in whooping Trump's ass, as Americans would put it. And as they emerge from their hangovers the next morning, they'll turn to Cruz and a few will say: "Well, what have we got here?"

In short, perhaps the most conservative GOP candidate ever nominated.

Born in Canada to a Cuban father, the 45-year-old Cruz hails from the far right of the Republican Party. In this context, to describe him as a 'zealot' is fair comment –as a freshman elected in 2012 on the back of the Tea party revolt in the GOP, Cruz's voting record in the Senate has marked him as one of the two or three most consistently conservative members.

As seen by Edward Carmines, a political scientist at Indiana University, Cruz represents the embodiment of the hard right; extremely conservative not just on economic and social welfare issues like social security, health care, affirmative action programs for women and minorities, and taxes; but also on social and cultural issues such as gun control, prayer in schools, abortion, and gay marriage.

By The New York Times' analysis of Cruz's policy statements even rape and incest victims who became pregnant would be denied abortions and the so-called morning-after-pill would be illegal. Cruz wants reduced social security entitlements in a partial privatisation of US welfare; he wants Muslim communities to be 'patrolled and secured;' and high up in every speech his makes is the claim that he is "fully committed to repealing every single word of Obamacare."

Much of his policy pronouncements are dressed up as messages from God or appeals for prayer, such as this on his abhorrence of same-sex marriage: "…I'm going to encourage each and every man and woman here to pray. If ever there was an issue on which we should come to our knees to God about, it is preserving marriage of one man and one woman…an issue on which we need as many praying warriors as possible to turn back the tide."

Cruz bills himself as a 'courageous conservative.' But how clever a politician is he? He rails against the 'Washington political cartel' and thinks nothing of denouncing his own party leader on the floor of the Senate as a liar – and these days he works the phones, miffed at his lack of success in getting any of the party big wigs to endorse his candidacy wholeheartedly.

Political journalists are having a field day. Ordinarily they'd have to go to Democrats to get on-the-record criticism of a Republican; and the most they might get from the subject's GOP colleagues would be an unattributed put down. But there's no such problem when it comes to Cruz.

Some happily go on the record with their refusal to endorse him. And former GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole went on the record with his warning that a Cruz candidacy could turn voters away from voting for down-the-ticket Republicans - "If he's the nominee, we're going to have wholesale losses in Congress and state offices and governors and legislatures." 

And Peter King, a Republican congressman from New York, didn't feel constrained either, telling a reporter: "Cruz isn't a good guy, and he'd be impossible as president. People don't trust him." 

In the absence of an alternate candidate, the Republicans find themselves boxed in, with no choice but the test the argument of the party's hard right leadership that the GOP lost four of the last six presidential elections because their candidates were not conservative enough — George H. W. Bush [1992], Robert Dole [1996], John McCain [2008] and Mitt Romney [2012].

But here's the thing. Crazy as it might sound, as The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat puts it, Cruz might be unloved, unattractive, a Simpsons-quoting nerd still chasing the teenage dream of world domination, but he has outworked, out organised and outlasted the candidates who were supposed to beat him, from the blueblood to the jock.

In averaging the myriad opinion polls on a presidential face off between various of the candidates, Real Clear Politics finds that the presumptive Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump; but in a Clinton-Cruz match-up, Clinton wins by just 3.4 points – arguably not far outside the polls' margin of error.

The NYT's Douthat writes: "Cruz's cynicism can be repellent; his message discipline exhausting, and his Reagan-vintage policy proposals induce a mild despair. But in the drama of this insane campaign, he has actually earned his position, and if his doggedness wins the Republican nomination … it will be one of the most fascinating triumphs in recent political history."

Trump: 'It's a Corrupt and Crooked System'

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Sunday that while he thinks he will win the delegates needed to get the GOP nomination, the system is still "rigged" and "corrupt. (April 17)

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