Ted Cruz became the first officially announced candidate for President on Monday when he delivered a speech before a captive (literally) audience at the ironically named Liberty University. He is one of the most strident, intractable candidates I can recall in my lifetime and his ultra-right-wing views would be scary if I thought there were a chance that he could win his party’s nomination, let alone the presidency. There really is no danger of him doing either.
The real danger of Ted Cruz, as well as several other potential candidates like Rick Santorum and Ben Carson, is not an implausible rise to their party’s nomination, but what they do to the rest of the field. They keep pushing the entire field further to the right. Even so, the last couple days I have seen pundits say things like this quote from David Ludwig in The Atlantic, “After less than two years in the Senate, Cruz has positioned himself to make waves on a Republican debate stage in 2016 and to compete as a more conservative alternative to Jeb Bush or Scott Walker.”
This is the real danger of Ted Cruz. Donald Trump makes everyone look smarter. Ted Cruz and the other radical right-wingers make Jeb Bush and Scott Walker look liberal, or at least like some kind of centrists when they are not. Walker in particular is a far right Tea Party Christian conservative, both fiscally and socially. Candidates like Cruz and Carson only serve to make Walker look less conservative when in fact his views are aligned much closer to them than to most of America. Or perhaps I should clarify that by saying that the views of his corporate sponsors that he regurgitates back as laws are closer to Cruz and his ilk. I’m not sure anyone knows what Walker himself stands for, other than less government and more business, but even much of that appears to be favors for political support. He also stands for himself. He once told a college friend that he was going to be President and his entire life and career seems to have been shaped toward that goal.
I believe that underneath it all Walker is as conservative as any of the right-wingers who spout nonsense like Carson’s views on homosexuality–he said he believed it was a choice and cited prisoners as his evidence. Walker is perhaps just as or even more conservative than Cruz and Carson, but he is very good at hiding his views. No one knew before he was elected Wisconsin’s governor–at least no one in the public–that he was planning on stripping public workers of their collective bargaining rights, a law right out of the playbook of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a group of government and business buddies that drafts laws for legislators to take back to their states and enact into law to help businesses make more money. Walker was a member for years when he was in the Wisconsin Assembly.
Walker also hid his support for so-called “right to work” laws that undermine private unions by making it illegal to collect money from non-union members at a union shop, essentially giving those employees all the benefits of union membership without the responsibility. He proposed a right-to-work law when he was a state legislator back in the 1990s. As governor he never mentioned that. He simply was quoted as saying that it wasn’t a priority for him and that he didn’t expect such a bill to reach his desk. In 2011 he even said he had no interest in doing anything to private unions and that he believed they were partners in getting the economy going. Once the bill inevitably hit his desk he signed it almost immediately. The only reason there was a delay at all is that he was visiting (or what most of us call campaigning) elsewhere at the time.
Several times Walker has dodged questions that might give a fuller picture of his views. The most famous example is his refusal to answer a question on evolution when he was visiting Great Britain. That was followed a short time later by a refusal to elaborate on whether he believed Barack Obama to be a Christian. Both non-answers essentially answered for him, but did not provide quotes that anyone can use against him. If nothing else he can be a shrewd politician.
However, Walker does have a record that can be examined. His entire political career shows him to be both fiscally and socially conservative and sometimes extremely so. He has opposed abortion, even in the case of rape or incest, supports a personhood amendment that would define life as beginning at conception, and has supported a pharmacist’s right to refuse to fill contraception prescriptions for religious reasons. Walker hides his opposition to marriage equality these days by deflecting attention away from it and stating that we should be talking about the economy rather than equality, but he has been a long-time opponent of marriage equality. In a 2005 press release he said, “Many years ago, I concluded that we must change the Wisconsin State Constitution to say that marriage is to be between one man and one woman. My belief in this position is even stronger today.”
Those are two of the more volatile social issues. The Wisconsin governor also believes in drug-testing welfare recipients, something that has not worked in any state that has tried it. He has cut funding for public schools from elementary through the university while working to expand school vouchers, essentially moving toward a privatized, profit-based school system in Wisconsin while claiming it is about “choice”. While we don’t hear much about it he has said that we should replace Obamacare and he also refused federal money from the Affordable Care Act for Medicaid. Aside from what he has already done to gut unions he is also opposed to raising the minimum wage for workers. He has consistently been against working men and women while supporting tax cuts for corporations and big business, pretty much furthering his hero Ronald Reagan’s discredited trickle-down economic theories.
The reality is that Scott Walker is as much of an ideologue on the Affordable Care Act as Ted Cruz, as extreme on abortion as Rick Santorum, and as anti-gay, anti-marriage equality as Ben Carson. He is simply not being noticed for his far-right positions because the press focuses on his “heroic” battles against the unions and those other candidates are always out there loudly and proudly proclaiming their extreme views. In the meantime Walker diverts attention by answering tough questions with responses like, “Folks are concerned about the economy. Let’s talk about that.” It doesn’t stop him from advancing his agenda or signing draconian laws, but gosh, he sure seems like one of us. He shops at Kohl’s and rides a Harley. He must be a regular guy.
Most of the other candidates don’t seem like regular guys. They seem like clowns at a bizarre circus (albeit more like American Horror Story than Barnum & Bailey). It has been reported that Ted Cruz’ father said that Ted will one day be one of the “anointed kings” who will be in power during the end time redistribution of wealth. A side note here–isn’t “redistribution of wealth” supposed to be anathema for Republicans? Scott Walker has been redistributing wealth in Wisconsin for five years now, from the hard-working laborers on the front lines to the already rich corporate overlords he serves religiously. The difference is that Cruz would do so at his father’s bidding whereas Scott Walker does so believing that he is following the bidding of his father in Heaven. Most of us pray, but most of us do not believe as Walker does that God speaks directly to us and tells us whether we should take a job, marry someone, run for Governor, or run for President.
Most people even in Wisconsin don’t know about Walker’s religious and political fanaticism because he deflects questions or hides many of his views from the general public. He does share those views in coded political speech that some listeners understand perfectly well, and he does advance his agenda one way or the other. Those outside of Wisconsin know less about him, except for how he looks compared to the blowhards making names for themselves as rabid right-wingers, those like Cruz who isn’t afraid of standing by what he believes with the full force of his personality. Walker looks rational compared to those who put their opinions out there whether they are liked or not and who stand by those views even at the potential expense of their political careers. Walker would never do that. He has always taken the long view of his career, with every moment geared toward the aspiration of becoming President. It was a goal he envisioned long before he ever started to pray for guidance about whether he should run. Interestingly it is a prayer he still claims is unanswered although he is clearly already running and although his whole life has pushed him along that road.
Except for his die-hard supporters nobody really believes that Ted Cruz has a chance at winning the highest office in the land, but at least Cruz is honest. The unvarnished extremism of Cruz and the others make Walker look palatable, and that is the real danger of Ted Cruz and the current collection of right-wing crazies in the potential field of Republican candidates.