The 2016 presidential campaign is in its infancy, and already I’m fatigued by the crazy talk I hear. Case in point: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who spoke the week before last at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition summit in Iowa about the First Amendment and religious freedom. Here’s what Cruz had to say: “Today’s Democratic Party has decided there is no room for Christians in today’s Democratic Party. … There is a liberal fascism that is going after Christian believers.” He also referred to biblical principles that “Democratic politicians are prosecuting.”
Let’s parse these words. “There is no room for Christians in the Democratic Party.” Really? I think there’s plenty of room for Christians in the Democratic Party. The Christians in the Democratic Party just see things differently than Cruz. What Cruz is really saying is that if you don’t see things his way, you’re not a Christian, but who imbued Cruz with the power to divine who’s a Christian and who isn’t?
What about “liberal fascism?” Back in the day, fascism referred to socialist dictators, like Italy’s Benito Mussolini, who used his authority to suppress any opposition. I imagine many Democrats see Cruz as the embodiment of ideas that are anathema to Democrats, but that’s about as far as their zeal goes. No matter what policies they may advocate, associating Democrats with fascism is silly.
How about the idea of Democrats “persecuting” Christian principles? Equally silly, I think. (Note to Sen. Cruz: principles are not persecuted; principles are derided.) If you want to talk about persecution, let’s go to the Middle East where ISIS is actually persecuting, i.e., killing Christians.
Cruz’s message gets lost in the hyperbole of politics. He’s trying, I imagine, to appeal to his political base and to do so he bashes Democrats. In doing so, Cruz further polarizes his political base. Instead of focusing on the complexities of religious freedom and the First Amendment, he panders to his audience and shifts attention to the Democrats. The real issue—how do we resolve this complex issue?—gets lost in nonsensical exaggerations about the other side being composed of fascists.
Cruz is missing an opportunity to draw on a larger crowd. There are probably a number of Democrats and independents who see things the way Cruz does, but he’ll never garner their vote because he denigrates them. As smart as Cruz is—and he’s plenty smart—he’s missing the boat.
Cruz’s message—if he were a true leader—would be one where he speaks with genuine concern about the competing interests and the earnest struggle each side makes to reach the right conclusion. He would end by being clear about his position but would ask Americans to be empathetic to the other point of view because, if progress is to be made, we have to look for common ground.
Leadership means promoting ideals in a way that helps galvanize people, but Cruz’s language doesn’t work toward that end. His message is lost on many because it gets jumbled in talk about fascism and persecution.
But politics isn’t about demonstrating leadership. It’s about sound bites, appeasing your base and criticizing the other side, all of which is child’s play. Leadership, on the other hand, takes work.
And let’s be clear. I’m happy to point out the faults with Democrats. Cruz just happened to catch my ear.
Jack D’Aurora writes for considerthisbyjd.com
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