Why I Cannot Support Ted Cruz (and You Should Think Twice About it Too)

One of the strangest things about this bewildering election cycle has been the sudden and seemingly unthinking lurch these past couple weeks to embrace and anoint Ted Cruz as the only savior of the Republican Party. There is good probability, in fact, that within 24 hours of the time I write and post this, this anointment will be something of a fait accompli, with the election results today almost certain to disqualify Marco Rubio as a viable alternative to Trump, and with John Kasich’s candidacy having been, it would seem, condemned to futility from the outset, no matter what he does, in one long long, sustained, self-destructive exercise in self-fulfilling prophecy. If that is what the future holds, I feel compelled, like Hooker, “lest things should pass away as in a dream,” to register and articulate my dissent, in some small hope of changing some minds in the short term, but more importantly, to provide a reference point in the longer term.

I should note that there are many conservative voters out there who, for ideological reasons, do in fact positively support Ted Cruz and what he stands for. I do not expect to convince folks of this sort in the course of this brief post; to do so, after all, would require mounting a persuasive argument against Cruz’s ideological commitments on issues such as immigration, the environment, tax policy, foreign policy, and healthcare. In the interest of full disclosure, I think his views on all of these fronts to range from dangerously naïve to morally noxious, and obviously this plays a significant role in my refusal to support him. That said, I do not think these ideological differences are the decisive issue. I have very profound differences on policy issues with candidates I am willing to support. As I shall go on to argue, the real danger of Ted Cruz lies elsewhere.

In recent weeks, though, I have encountered many other conservative voters and leaders, who, while sharing many of my concerns about Ted Cruz’s policy commitments on various issues, have nonetheless rapidly pivoted to his side on much more utilitarian grounds—namely, that “He has the best chance of beating Trump.” I am far from contesting the legitimacy (as long as one is clear about what one is doing) of such strategic lesser-evil voting. But one has to first be sure that it is in fact strategic and that the candidate in question is in fact the lesser evil. I am not convinced of either in this case.

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Hooker Meets Trumpism: A Diagnosis of Disgruntled Radicalism

The essay which follows is adapted from a presentation given last weekend to the Davenant Trust Toronto Regional Convivium at West Toronto Baptist Church. Thanks to Ian Clary and Justin Galotti for their hospitality.

The Anatomy of Trumpism

In this paper, I want to sketch Richard Hooker’s remarkably prescient diagnosis of Trumpism 423 years in advance. Trumpism, it should be noted, is simply the culmination of a disgruntled radicalism that has been brewing in the Republican Party since at least the election of Obama in 2008; it is the chickens coming home to roost for the Republican leadership, which has actively fomented an anti-intellectual anti-establishment anti-government message for the past seven years. What are some of the basic features of this tendency, and its dark apotheosis in Donald Trump (and to a somewhat lesser extent, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and other leading Republican presidential candidates)?

Most obviously, the Movement is characterized by a profound distrust of authority—first and foremost, perhaps, governmental authorities in the positions of most centralized power (the White House, Supreme Court, Federal Reserve, and various federal bureaucracies above all, then the Senate, then the House of Representatives, and only then state governments), but then, not far behind, and closely connected, various forms of intellectual authorities—media, academic scholars and economists, and especially scientists. In place of these discredited authorities, the Movement embraces the wisdom of the common man and the neophyte. With the center clearly corrupted, one must look to the periphery for purity; experience is a liability, and inexperience an asset. The most trusted figures of all are those who, untainted by prior experience in government or credentialed expertise, can articulate in the most fearless and undiluted terms the common sense of the common man, heightening as much as possible its contrast with the voice of the Establishment. Around such trusted figures, promising to clean house and govern autocratically by their own individual vigor and insight, personality cults rapidly develop, fuelled by the invigorating language of liberty even while quietly evacutating it of much of its traditional meaning. The personal leadership of the demagogue, who speaks after all for the common man, is in many cases to replace the heavy-handed, inefficient, and compromise-ridden rule of law. Read More


On Defunding and the Diversity of Gifts: Some More Thoughts on the Planned Parenthood Outrage

Last week, in response to some heated discussions I had observed on Facebook, I tried to weigh into the whole discussion over the Planned Parenthood videos with “Seven Thoughts on the Planned Parenthood Outrage.” My post was more a reflection on how we in evangelical communities have responded, and should respond, to the Center for Medical Progress’s revelations, than it was a reflection on the revelations per se (others having already written many fantastic articles on that front). For me, the particularly pressing question is how we, as individuals and communities, can handle this strategic opportunity to unmask evil without blowing it by poor tactics, and without dissipating our energies in internal dissensions, as we are so often prone to do.

I have been wrestling with these thoughts further since my initial post, and two things have prompted me to reconsider, clarify, and elaborate some of the points there, though in rather different directions. There are really two separate posts here, but given the polarizing nature of this subject, I am going to keep them together in one, imploring the reader to have the patience to read through to the end.

First, my friend Jake Meador posted (as something of an indirect response to my post), an excellent “3 Points on #PPSellsBabyParts,” which induced me to rethink some of my cynicism and pessimism, particularly about our political objectives. Second, however, another friend posted this article, which, among many very good points, carries the unfortunate implication that we all have a moral duty to take to social media’s virtual streets and yell and wave our posters. This, together with some other things I have observed, led me to feel that my main concern in my original post—to raise some alarms about our headlong leap onto the Social Media Outrage Bandwagon—needed to be reiterated and elaborated. Read More


Seven Thoughts on the Planned Parenthood Outrage

So we’re now about two weeks into the whole furor over the revelations that “Planned Parenthood Sells Baby Parts.” Whether or not you think that that description is precisely accurate, it is not after all really the point of the furor. To anyone convinced that abortion is the wicked and callous ending of a human life for convenience, it is really only natural that those performing the procedure would try to get the most out of it, up to and including generous compensation for the body parts. The revelations of the past couple weeks, to that extent, should not really be that shocking to most of those most professing their shock. The outpouring of outrage within the conservative blogosphere and social media, then, can easily provoke a counter-outpouring of cynicism: is anyone really listening? If they are, are we really just making ourselves look worse, like obsessed right-wing crazies? If we really cared so much about the problem to begin with, why don’t we shut up and do something about it, rather than just sounding off in an echo chamber? In the current case, I have followed the story closely and with genuine outrage, and have tried to repress my natural predilection for cynicism, especially given my sense that this time, at least, there was the potential to pierce the walls of the echo chamber and affect a broader cultural change of heart.

When a friend, however, last night voiced these cynical worries on Facebook, I collected my thoughts into six points in response. Here they are, fleshed out a bit and with a seventh added, in deference, of course, to good biblical precedent: Read More


Obamacare and the Task of Responsible Opposition, Pt. 3: How Bad is it?

 (See Pt. 1 here, Pt. 2 here)

Now, all of the preceding has one huge asterisk attached to it; everything I have argued holds if and only if Obamacare falls within the normal spectrum of good, mediocre, and bad law.  Now don’t get me wrong; my own view is that it falls very decidedly on the “bad law” end of the spectrum, in a whole host of ways.  But America has seen a lot of very bad laws—Patriot Act, anyone?—that have not warranted, or have certainly not evoked, this kind of response.  If the Right is not going to be hypocritical, they have to show why this is different and unique.  If in fact it is an abomination before God or against man, an attack on the body politic, a form of tyranny or gross injustice, or sure to do incalculable harm to the common good, well then, we may be in a state of justified exception to the principles I articulated above. Hooker after all says, “Not that I judge it a thing allowable for men to observe those laws which in their hearts they are steadfastly persuaded to be against the law of God”; obviously there comes a point at which “it’s the law of the land” should not be sufficient in itself to compel obedience.  If, for instance, to pick an issue of particular concern to conservatives, Congress were to pass a law requiring that all doctors without exception must perform abortions on demand, civil disobedience on the part of doctors would be the only acceptable option, and ferocious opposition by legislators might be in order.  In cases such as this, we would celebrate the many checks and balances in our constitutional system, and seek to use whichever ones we could to obstruct the implementation of such an unjust law.  But is the Affordable Care Act, as such, of this nature?

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