In my youthful period of life (age 18-30) I was a registered Democrat before the disaster that became Jimmy Carter. I even voted for the peanut farmer from Georgia thinking he would fix the Washington D.C. debacle created by then Republican Richard Nixon and the so-called corrupt establishment of that era. When Ford immediately pardoned Nixon I was outraged and moved more toward Carter in the 1976 election. In my arrogance I believed the pardon was the wrong message to send to the nation and world, but now with age and wisdom I can understand the logic and healing that came about by a more tolerant Gerald R. Ford, a man with more compassion and wisdom than I possessed in my youthful exuberance.
After the terrifying four years of the Carter administration in which the first signs of my party moving further and further to the left on issues such as security, debt and debilitation of the nation’s ability to protect itself and its citizens at home and abroad by the calculated depletion of the military, I found myself more and more attracted to Mr. Reagan who was more measured, deliberate and committed to making the nation stronger both militarily and financially. The great Reagan Revolution had begun and I found myself hitching a ride to that wagon. Looking back at that crazy period in 1980 when one man took the stagnant, elitist heavy-laden Republican Party and made it once again the party of Abraham Lincoln it gives me pause and concern for today's current Grand Old Party, which is a far cry from the one President Reagan created and fostered. Reagan was hardline but not ultra-conservative hardline in the same tone and tenure that many think of hard-Right conservatism of today represented by the likes of Ted Cruz, Mark Levin and many politicians and pundits. Reagan always left his options open for negotiation with the other side of the aisle. He knew the fine art of compromise without trashing his basic foundational principles. That is why more successful work was achieved under two party opposites - Reagan and O'Neill (then Democratic Speaker of the House). While Reagan was not shy from using Executive Orders, he found it more pleasing to work with both sides of the aisle and walk away with a deal in which the opposition got some of what they wanted while he got nearly all of what he sought after.
So, with that in mind what is it about Ted Cruz that simply turns me off?
The Senator from Texas is after all a real conservative by today’s standard and the current definition or understanding of that word. He is tough on crime, probably tougher than any other candidate in the running. His stance on immigration, while muddied at times, is still one that a person like myself could get behind. Economically, he is a bit weak on details but not as much as Donald Trump or even Hillary Clinton. He is anti-ObamaCare to the nth degree which I find very appealing but what he plans on replacing it with is still a bit foggy, even after reading his ideas on his website. He will likely double-down on keeping the Second Amendment of the Constitution intact and will not allow tampering with it, which I also find attractive. While I think his plan to shutdown the IRS is a bit premature, his desire to radically alter the current tax status quo to make it more favorable to the middle-class is intriguing.
Why then am I hesitant to pull the lever for Cruz come election day?
Last night (15 March 2016), after Mr. Trump handily walked away from Super Tuesday 2.0 as the undisputed winner of the majority of delegates I watched both Trump and Cruz give their after tally speeches and like a flash of light - a revelation, if you will, dawned in my brain. Senator Ted Cruz comes across in his speeches, in his tone, the way he turns a phrase, his verbal staccato and the movement of his facial tics when he talks reminded me of one of those old-timey tent preachers that at one time were a staple across the country. What’s worse he doesn’t project a positive image of those types of preachers, like a Billy Graham or Billy Sunday, but more on the order of an Elmer Gantry or the slick, faith healing con-man Jonas Nightingale played by actor Steve Martin in the 1992 film “Leap of Faith.”
I can’t seem to shake that image from my brain every time I see Cruz. No matter what he says I simply find it nearly impossible to take him at his word. I don’t distrust him as I do most politicians; I distrust him on the same level as I would be wary of any pseudo-religious figure out to sell me a spiritual bill of goods. I think this might also be the case with so many voters who have had this inner battle going on about Cruz who, like myself, couldn’t quite put their finger on it until now. As long as I can't get his Elmer Gantry persona out of my head I will be hard pressed to cast my vote for Ted Cruz, and at this point I’m not sure he could do anything to change this because he is what he is perceived to be, not what he might actually be.