A friend told me that she was far more worried about Ted Cruz getting elected than Donald Trump. Cruz, she said, was much worse. Not too long afterward, I decided to Google him. I found his Twitter account, which didn’t really give me what I want, so I kept looking. Then I saw an article from the New Yorker and was intrigued. The article had been written almost two years earlier, and I was hoping for something more recent, but I decided to read it anyway. The article is entitled, The Absolutist.
Before I read the article, I could only think of Ted Cruz as the idiot who shut down the Federal government in 2013. I found out a lot about the Texas Senator that I had not known. His father is a Cuban immigrant, who is now a pastor. As a teenager he learned more about the Constitution from right wing, after-school programs than a lot of Americans will learn in a lifetime. He went to Princeton, Harvard Law School, and Clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist, and in all of these roles he was regarded as a formidable academic and debater.
During the time Cruz decided to filibuster the funding bill needed to fund the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), I had been reading the legislative history on the enactment of the Civil Rights Act. The legislative history gave a narrative on LBJ’s wheeling and dealing to get a civil rights bill passed that was ultimately ineffective but would provide a large political victory. I was appalled and furious that so many politicians would bargain with the rights of men and women as if they were monopoly money.
That legislative history inspired me to write a paper on political actors and legislative compromises, wherein I denounced politicians so callous that they failed to consider anything outside their own political gain. I did consider the Cruz shutdown, but concluded the shutdown was wrong, based on my analysis.
The Absolutist slightly changed my perspective on this. The article does mention the filibuster as an example of Cruz refusing to compromise his principles, but it also mentions another example that I found interesting. The Republicans had made a deal with Democrats that lowered the number of votes needed to increase the debt ceiling, allowing the Republicans to vote no (to look good for their constituents) and still pass the bill to increase debt ceiling. Cruz objected to the deal on principle. I still don’t think shutting down the government was the right idea, but I can respect a politician choosing to stand by his or her principles, refusing to compromise just because it’s what everyone normally does.
In the article, Cruz says that it’s not about Republican vs. Democrat—rather it’s a matter of honest politicians vs. the establishment. The author criticizes, noting that Cruz is not anti-establishment; he is only interested in uprooting Republicans willing to compromise with Democrats. However, I don’t know if that’s true. There is an undertone of dishonesty in the debt-ceiling tactic that seems more than Republicans looking to compromise with Democrats.
Will I ever vote for Cruz? Absolutely not. I do not agree with his policies, and I really, really hope he’s never elected. However, I do respect his integrity, and I think there is something to be learned from his example—just not his position on Muslims.
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