Tag: Ted Cruz

Bernie is changing the game

BernieBy Alan Bean

I cannot recall another presidential election when both the official guardians of both major political parties were shocked and dismayed by the preferences of the base.   The Republican establishment is scared to death that Trump or Cruz will win the nomination.  Democrats are freaking out over a surging Sanders campaign.

But  let’s face it, Trump and Cruz are serving up the kind of red meat the party base has learned to love.  The  elite might prefer a compassionate conservative, but the folks in the trenches want an America that looks and sounds like 1953, a blessed time when the electorate was overwhelmingly white, men ruled the national roost, American economic and military power defined  the world and one-nation-under-God civil religion was the height of fashion.  The Republican base wants candidates who promise a return to White Eden and Trump and Cruz promise to deliver.

However George Will or David Brooks might define the term, Trump-Cruz is what contemporary conservatism looks like.

Conversely, the Democratic base looks and sounds like Bernie Sanders.  The prospect of a female president resonates, but economic populism is the driving passion of the Democratic base.  Sanders needs a haircut (badly) and his unmodulated apocalyptic rhetoric is shrill and predictable, but we all know what Bernie stands for.   Most movement Democrats, including many of those who think the man from Vermont is unelectable, agree with his economic analysis.

In fact, most Republicans agree with Bernie (so long as you don’t use the s-word).  American politics is controlled by corporate America and Hillary Clinton, for all her political merits, would do nothing to change that fact.

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and the rest of a dwindling Republican field, realize their political success demands fealty to corporate sponsors.  They don’t wear corporate logos on their pin-stripes like NASCAR drivers, but they might as well.

Donald “you’re fired” Trump is the very face of corporate America.  We might not like the guy, but if you believe his entrepreneurial passion makes economic magic, you are willing to bow the knee.

Ted Cruz has been a willing tool of the corporate community since he was in high school.  All the constitutional blather boils down to cutting big business loose from federal regulation and taxation.  The money people rub their hands together when politicians like Cruz talk tough on foreign policy.  Militarism is as good for business as it’s bad for everyone else.  So is a dysfunctional immigration system predicated on private prisons.  Cruz can take an aggressively pro-life stance on the abortion issue because his corporate masters, being 98% male, have no strong feelings on the subject.

Social and foreign policy issues, from the perspective of those who own American politics, are a convenient distraction from the only agenda that really matters: the well being of the CEO class.  They would have us believe that the rule of the wealthy keeps America strong, prosperous and virtuous.

To the extent that American business is still subject to government regulation, the American form of plutocracy is approximate, not pure.  To the extent that the CEO class is taxed at all, the revolution is incomplete.

Most corporate types can live with a status quo that has them earning 500 times as much as their average employees.  Hillary Clinton is their candidate.

Others will only be satisfied when the taxing and regulatory powers of government disappear altogether.  They are bankrolling men like Cruz.

Donald Trump sees no reason to work through “conservative” surrogates when he could impose his will directly.  Initially, perhaps, he just wanted to pump us his celebrity (and indulge in a little innocent merriment) by throwing a spanner into the electoral works.  He never dreamed his crude antics would go over so well.

But they did and now Trump’s in it to win it.

The American electorate limps between two opinions.  We resent and envy the moneyed class, believing they have far too much influence.  Still, believing we’d be would be lost without the magnates and tycoons, we raise few objections when the political class calls for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Where you fall on this continuum largely determines your politics.

Should we placate the 1% a little, or a lot?  That is the question.

Bernie Sanders is a socialist.  He isn’t the kind of socialist who believes in government control over the economy; but he is challenging the suggestion that the average worker can’t do well unless the corporate class is doing 500 times better.  He’s calling for balance.  He wants more regulation and more taxation of the master class.  Lot’s more. And he is isn’t embarrassed to say so.

And that’s why Bernie’s star is currently in the ascendancy.  He ain’t pretty.  He ain’t smooth.  But he’s asking the right questions and jabbing his finger in the right direction.

The media (liberal and conservative) aren’t feeling the Bern.  Americans don’t elect socialists, so Sanders is bound to fade sooner or later. If we ignore him, they seem to be saying, maybe it will be sooner.

But Bernie’s not going away.  He may not win it all, but he has transformed a forgone conclusion into a genuine horse race.  And that is a great thing for American political discourse.

The marriage of Christ and anti-Christ

XXX TED CRUZ 2016 HDB327.JPG A  HKO USA VAWhen Ted Cruz launched his presidential campaign at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University reaction on the left was predictable.  Some suggested that Liberty students were only in their seats because attendance at chapel is mandatory at Liberty. Liberals don’t like Ted and the feeling is mutual.

Libertarian response was mixed.  Ted’s political career is funded by billionaire libertarians Charles and David Koch, he despises Obamacare, and he wants to abolish the IRS.

Libertarians haven’t forgotten that Cruz’s famous filibuster speech against Obamacare was studded with Ayn Rand quotations.

Who could ask for anything more?

But hard core, “objectivist” libertarians are baffled by Ted’s fervent embrace of the religious right, in general, and his staunch opposition to abortion, in particular.  Why, for instance, did a lifelong admirer of Ayn Rand announce his candidacy at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University?

Ayn Rand hated philosophical compromise as much as she hated Jesus; and she hated Jesus very, very much.  Consider this oft-quoted line from her novel, The Fountainhead:

The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent.  He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves . . . this is the essence of altruism.

Jesus and Ayn share one quality: consistency.

Rand asserted that nothing beyond the demands of the detached and independent ego really matters.  Altruism, living in response to the needs of others, was thus the worst kind of heresy.  When we live in service to others, she taught, we become slaves.

Randian objectivists wish Ted would lose his religion so they wouldn’t have to qualify for their support.  But everyone, even libertarians, appreciate that Ted’s career arc would plummet to earth if he trampled on the cross.  In America, we are free to disagree with Jesus on every important point, so long as we’re singing “Oh How I Love Jesus”.

A cynic would assert that Ted Cruz embraces both Christ and anti-Christ because he is a pragmatic politician. But you can’t understand the Junior Senator from Texas apart from the culture that shaped him.  Religious superstars from Dwight L. Moody to Billy Graham embraced Wall Street for the same reason Ted Cruz courts the Koch brothers–publicity is expensive.

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand

The best way to impress the wealthy is to tell them how wonderful they are, and Ayn Rand made a comfortable living singing paeans to the powerful.  They were the only people that mattered to her; everybody else she called ‘looters’, ‘moochers,’ and (when she was feeling kind) ‘parasites’.

Not all wealthy people enjoy praise and adulation, of course, but most of them do. Charles and David Koch love Ayn Rand and Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter because they speak rapturously of the wealthy and contemptuously of everyone else.  No surprises there.

Ted Cruz grew up in a religious subculture in which Christianity and laissez-faire capitalism dovetailed neatly.  Mainstream evangelical Christianity soft-pedals Jesus’ teaching on money, greed and solidarity with the poor because, while no one was watching, we became a wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate America.  If you think this is overly-harsh, check out the Sermon on the Mount and you will see the problem.

But this marriage of Christ and anti-Christ goes deeper than political pragmatism and the lure of mammon.  Ted Cruz isn’t just a conservative Southern Baptist who occasionally shows up at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas; he is also an enthusiastic Dominionist.

This stealth enterprise goes by a variety of names: the Reconstructionist Movement, Dominionism or, more recently, the New Apostolic Reformation (I have written extensively on this subject).

Dominionism is rooted in the “presuppositional” theology of Cornelius Van Til and the political-religious musings of Rousas John Rushdoony.  (If you are unfamiliar with Cornelius and Rousas, this primer will come in handy.)

Think of it as the Reformed doctrine of election on steroids.  Rushdoony put it like this:

“The purpose of Christ’s coming was in terms of the creation mandate… The redeemed are called to the original purpose of man, to exercise dominion under God, to be covenant-keepers, and to fulfill “the righteousness of the law” (Rom. 8:4) . . . Man is summoned to create the society God requires.”

The theological category of “election” makes the marriage of Christ and anti-Christ possible.

Both Randian objectivists and Christian dominionists contrast the glories of “us” with the depravity of “them”.

It’s an anti-Christian species of Calvinism.  The wealthy and the powerful have the right to dictate to the poor and the powerless because, well, they’re so super.  Dominionists associate this authority with God (from whom all blessings flow).  For Randian objectivists it’s the law of the jungle: If the makers don’t rule the takers, the takers will rule the makers, and we can’t have that.  Both conservative Christians and anti-Christ objectivists dream of that great day when the elect will triumph and the unworthy will get a richly-deserved comeuppance.

I am not suggesting that everyone associated with the religious right thinks this way. They don’t.  But culture war logic ensures that conservative critics of this marriage of Christ and anti-Christ will be consigned to the outer darkness.

Liberals, for their part, don’t know enough about Ayn Rand or Christian Reconstructionism to discern the elephant in the room.  Besides, it’s too easy to lampoon politicians like Ted Cruz if you’re working with a liberal audience.  You can make jokes about Liberty University students compulsory attendance at the Cruz announcement speech in twenty quick seconds flat.  Liberty students wearing Rand Paul T-shifts is a great five-second sight gag.  So why do the hard work of answering hard questions that no one is asking?

Mainstream analysis, desperate to sustain the illusion of objectivity, eschews in-depth analysis of anything.  Cruz kicked off his campaign at Liberty University in an attempt to court religious conservatives.  End of story.  The marriage of Christ and anti-Christ rarely gets a mention on CNN or CBS.  It sounds mean-spirited and it smacks of liberal bias.  We don’t want to lose more conservative viewers to FOX.

But our silence comes with a price.  Ted Cruz holds this marriage of convenience together by pretending that neither Jesus nor Ayn Rand were serious.

They were; and they are.