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According to mainstream analysis, if Donald Trump is ultimately denied the Republican nomination for the 2016 general election, it will almost certainly be due to a late surge in support for the campaign of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. This seems accurate enough. Though at the time of writing Cruz lags over 10 points behind the billionaire favourite, he is significantly ahead of the over-hyped neoconservative Marco Rubio, who is himself significantly ahead of the swollen pool of has-beens languishing in single digits. Given how familiar this grid has become and how apparently immovable its order seems to be, commentators are justly relaxed in proclaiming a two-horse race; Cruz the evangelical vs. Trump the patriot; Faith vs. Fatherland; Social vs. Paleo conservatism.
My opinion on Cruz has flip-flopped anarchically for several months now. Back in the days before Trump dramatically belly-flopped into the competition, I confidently believed that Cruz was the best the GOP had to offer, that he was strong enough, un-PC enough and bold enough to strike back at the Islamic hordes with greater force than his competitors. Now I’m not so sure, and my doubts seem to be broadly sympathised with.
Take David Denby in the New Yorker Magazine who (in a piece entitled ‘Ted Cruz: The Mask of Sincerity’) composed the following scathing profile: “When Ted Cruz lies, he appears to be praying. His lips narrow, almost disappearing into his face, and his eyebrows shift abruptly, rising like a drawbridge on his forehead into matching acute angles…For months, I sensed vaguely that he reminded me of someone but I couldn’t place who it was. Revelation has arrived: Ted Cruz resembles the Bill Murray of a quarter-century ago, when he played fishy, mock-sincere fakers. No one looked more untrustworthy than Bill Murray. The difference between the two men is that the actor was a satirist.”
Others have chosen similar if more compact dismissals of the Texan Senator, calling him (among other things) a ‘slimeball’, a ‘scuzzball’, a ‘snake’ and a ‘liar’. In short, people don’t believe Cruz possesses any moral or political integrity. Neither frankly do I.
Though this should really have no relevance in politics, Mr Cruz’s physical appearance has played an oversized part in forming this negative reputation. His face seems naturally untrustworthy, resembling – depending on the situation – a used car salesman, a televangelist or a war-time skiv – three roles he plays with rehearsed skill and exaggerated passion. I agree with Cruz, but I’m not certain that he agrees with himself. And this is problematic, even in American politics.
Barack Obama, to make a provocative comparison, is an authentic advocate of the policies he has backed over the past 8 years. Whatever else may be said about him, he is a straight-talking gentleman with a tendency to think aloud. Cruz on the other hand seems to have two entirely distinct people concealed within his skin; one a cynical, coldly methodical politician who will do or say anything to win; and the other a devout, bible-believing servant of the Almighty, less concerned with power than with unborn babies and veteran soldiers.
Cruz doesn’t need to flip between these two personas. They work together immaculately. But are both of them Ted Cruz? It would be impolite to guess.