I'm beginning to think the unthinkable--that Ted Cruz is sincere.
Nothing else explains his dogged determination to pander to narrow, politically abnegating slices of the American electorate in his larger pursuit of higher national office. In so mawkishly appealing to the hardest-right audiences he alienates virtually all others. This strategic path to the White House is damned, doomed, already a done deal. Given Cruz's intelligence, he is surely aware of his fate--and yet he goes on, pandering and alienating, pushing and receding, appealing and deliberately disaffecting. Perhaps, then, he actually believes in his mission, and is willing to take the fall?
Yesterday he was back at it, appearing at the Values Voter conference in Washington. Politico reports that even more than the titanically priggish Rick Santorum, "it was Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas who captivated the crowd of social conservatives." He brayed about America's "Judeo-Christian values" and snorted that he and his pious ilk "stand for life. We stand for marriage. We stand for Israel. We bring back jobs and opportunity and unleash small businesses to make it easier for people to achieve the American dream. We abolish the IRS. We repeal Common Core."
They are also utterly clueless, out of touch, and living in another century. Not even Mitt Romney in his wildest self-degradations would appeal not to the 20th-, but to the 19th-century American mind, which dwells almost exclusively in the crimson backwaters of a vanishing electorate. Indeed, not even Barry Goldwater's 1964 politics were as reactionary as Cruz's. For that, one would have to travel back to the 1930s.
In his brilliant 1983 work, Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin & the Great Depression, historian Alan Brinkley traced the incoherent, anachronistic yearnings of the title characters. To an unwitting base they hustled the fallacy of a 20th-century return to "simpler," decentralized, 19th-century times. By the 1930s those times had, of course, been lost to industrial America and the necessity of a larger, centralized government; the nation had moved on. In short, Long & Co.'s political potential was austerely delimited from the get-go.
As is Ted Cruz's, but even more so. Because he has to know that, could he then be sincere? I'm beginning to wonder.