It is a rare occasion that a left-leaning op-ed writer finds agreement with a conservative, so it is remarkable that David Brooks’ op-ed on Tuesday resonated with this column. The theme of Brooks’ column was “The Brutalism of Ted Cruz” and although he hit the nail on the head, he missed an important point about why evangelicals embrace Cruz.
Brooks related a story about a 1997 arrest of a Texas man caught stealing a calculator from Walmart; a crime worth a two-year maximum sentence. However, a prosecutorial error applied “a habitual offender law” that earned the thief a 16-year prison sentence. Instead of releasing the thief for time served when the error was realized, Texas solicitor general Cruz took the case all the way to the Supreme Court because error or not, the man will serve the full 16 year sentence. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy asked Cruz “Is there some rule that you can’t confess error in your state?” The man was eventually released after serving six years for a maximum two-year infraction.
Brooks relates the story to demonstrate Cruz’s natural behavior that is “the dictionary definition of pharisaism;” overzealous applying the letter of a law that not only violates the spirit of the law, it violates fairness and mercy. Now, what seems to baffle Brooks is why a barbarian like Cruz is supported by evangelicals when he is a stranger to Christian values of humility, mercy, compassion and grace. Maybe Brooks is referring to real Christian values, because those virtues are contrary to everything the evangelical right, and Ted Cruz, embrace according to their Old Testament “mean-god” brand of Christianity.
Now Brooks, dog bless him, claims that the way ‘traditional conservatives’ attracted evangelical support was “emphasizing the need to lend a helping hand to the economically stressed and the least fortunate among us.” That assessment is an altruistic conservative’s wishful thinking; no conservative or evangelical supports anything close to “lending a helping hand to the economically distressed or least fortunate among us.” Ronald Reagan, conservative trickle-down economics, and corporatism destroyed that mindset since the 1980s. Still, Brooks rightly summarized why everything about Ted Cruz is “brutalism.”
As Brooks noted, Cruz exudes “pagan brutalism” in his words and deeds with “not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy.” In fact, he criticized Cruz for focusing his speeches and policies on an ever-growing ‘enemies’ list that he vows to “crush, shred, destroy, and bomb out of existence;” including a significant number of Americans.
According to one Republican strategist, Cruz’s rhetoric never changes and, as an “inauthentic speaker,” he portrays everything not of Ted Cruz as a “maximum existential threat” that must be exterminated like “mean god” of the Old Testament. As Brooks notes, Cruz’s “apocalyptic fear mongering” is ridiculous and unrelated with reality in America; a nation Cruz and Republicans claim is going off the “cliff to oblivion.”
In fact, in October Cruz drew criticism for claiming Democrats are “taking away our freedoms every day,” and “auditioning to see who gets to wear the jackboot most vigorously.” He also claimed Democrats are enacting “more socialism, more pacifism, more weakness, and less Constitution to destroy America and completely strip away your and my individual liberties.”
It is Cruz’s apocalyptic fear-mongering that garnered most of Brooks’ condemnation. He even acknowledged that, although he is no fan of the Obama Administration, nothing the President has done has made America unrecognizable, or on the road to oblivion. Brooks cited Obama’s handling of the economy that has “America in better shape than any other nation on Earth, crime is down, abortion rates are down, and fourteen million new jobs were created in less than five years.”
Brooks slammed Cruz for manufacturing “an atmosphere of menace” the eliminates any room for moderation, compassion and only calls for dismantling, destroying and attacking; what conscious Americans understand is the typical conservative-Christian agenda for everything. Stunningly, Brooks actually cited Cruz’s nasty programmatic agenda to destroy everything including the I.R.S., E.P.A. “jackals,” Planned Parenthood, all of Obama’s executive orders, Iran, and make the desert glow (nuclear) in Syria and Iraq.
The conservative Brooks confesses his Republicanism informs his agreement with “some of these positions,” but he rails against Cruz’s contempt for the working class or any humane gesture toward cooperation which he said is striking for a conservative Republican. No, striking would be Cruz embracing peace before war, helping the needy, and demonstrating even a modicum of religious tolerance as a follower of Christ.
Brooks thinks Cruz is taking political advantage of evangelical fanatics who feel they are persecuted and exaggerates their fear. It is true, but it is true of every Republican in America and not just Cruz, and Brooks is blind if he cannot see it. The “fear-driven reactions” among the evangelical right do not fall solely on Ted Cruz; it is built in to America’s bastardized version of Christianity. However, Brooks is correct is noting that Cruz, and Republicans in general, lack any sense of Christian charity, compassion, and solidarity precisely like their religious right base.
Although Brooks has rightly assessed Cruz as brutally barbaric, it is important to remember that Cruz, or any Republican, did not create the religious right or evangelical fanatics’ scorched-Earth religious agenda. That mindset is throughout the Old Testament and the idea of destroying everything and everyone that does not toe the evangelical conservative line is not Christian. It is Old Testament.
The reason Cruz is winning the evangelical “mean-god” vote is because he fits the role the religious right demands; an almighty demigod promising to destroy anything that does not acknowledge that Ted Cruz is anointed to rule America.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.