See those claw marks on your back, Donald Trump?
They are from Ted Cruz, who is making his long-predicted move to the top of the heap in Iowa.
The junior senator from Texas is now leading in the most respected poll of Republican Iowa caucus voters. And if you combine the people who say he’s their first or second choice, he breaks 50 percent support.
Sure, it’s six weeks out and only one-third of Republicans polled said they were sure about their votes, but Cruz appears poised to join Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee as the winner of the caucus decided by voters who would most like to personally witness the End Times.
But unlike previous conservative champions, Cruz has a plan to win the nomination and the presidency. It may be insane and a bit self-fan-fiction-y — but it is a plan.
Given the American public’s collective post-traumatic stress from 9/11 and the financial crisis, we’re a trifle skittish. A well timed crisis in the form of terrorism or a financial shock could shake a bipolar electorate that keeps giving Democrats wins in the popular vote while delivering the Congress and the vast majority of state legislatures to the Republicans.
The lesson of the 2016 Republican primary is that anything can happen. Most sane people who don’t believe that Trump is reading their mind already know that it’s time to worry about the billionaire frontrunner whose fascist tendencies tend to be exaggerated exponentially by any sense of failure. Trump is troublesome — but here are five reasons why a Cruz win would be even more terrifying.
Here are 5 Reasons Ted Cruz Is Scarier Than Donald Trump
1. He actually believes this stuff.
Ted Cruz doesn’t just believe that George Soros is leading a global conspiracy to ban golf, he believes he’s the second coming of Ronald Reagan. Reagan ran against the party establishment in 1976 and went on to become the conservative establishment. But Cruz’s narrative of Reagan dismisses the actor’s two terms as a mostly pragmatic governor and the little Reagan actually did to shrink government as president. That’s because as the party has become purified of moderation, so has Reagan’s legacy.
In leading the government shutdown, Cruz demonstrated the stubborn willingness to sink the nation in favor of his beliefs. This is what the base of the Republican party wants, which is why Cruz was the frontrunner in Iowa in the immediate wake of the shutdown. Cruz tells Republicans that the only reason they don’t get everything they want is because they don’t believe in conservatism hard enough. As president, he’d be committed to the absolute implementation of conservatism because, like his father, he believes America’s existence depends on it.
2. He’s not interested in simply winning.
What makes Donald Trump scary is that he’ll do anything to win. It also makes him less scary than Ted Cruz because his policies are entirely meted to the audience they’re designed to woo. Cruz has been working on his ability to woo voters with a Reagan-sounding centrism. But should he be elected, there’s no doubt what course he’ll pursue as president. Trump might appoint anyone to Supreme Court — even his daughter. He won’t owe his election to any movement.
Cruz, on the other hand, will only appoint Justices who will vote along with Alito, Scalia and Thomas nearly every single time. And given that the next president could be the first since Nixon to appoint up to four justices, that should be a terrifying thought.
3. He would launch the most aggressive war on reproductive rights imaginable.
Like Marco Rubio, Cruz opposes abortion even in cases of rape. But unlike Rubio, he wouldn’t wait until he has a chance to appoint justices to the Supreme Court to strike a blow for reproductive rights. He believes that he could immediately ban all abortions by employing the 14th amendment to declare fetuses in the womb as “persons.”
Cruz has also backed personhood legislation that also treats fertilized eggs as people, logic that would allow the banning of some of the most popular birth control methods in America, including the IUD and the day-after pill. Recognizing that most people find such an idea repugnant, Cruz often points out that he doesn’t want to ban “rubbers.” This kind of sly evasion is his trademark and makes his extremism much harder to pin down. But given that Trump once identified as pro-choice and has proven entirely pliable, it’s unlikely that he would pursue anything resembling Cruz’s war on women. Not when there are so many immigrants to deport and Muslims to harass.
4. He would unite the Republican Party.
None of his Republican opponents have said that they wouldn’t support Trump should he win the GOP nomination. But one Republican congressman already has. Given Trump’s lack of commitment to the party and likelihood of offending the few swing voters that exist in America, we would expect lots of Republican officials to oppose a Trump candidacy.
Meanwhile Cruz has proved he has a large constituency among Republican House members. Though he won his seat as Tea Party insurgent, he’s worked within the Republican system. He’s less popular in Washington DC than a cash bar. But he’s a Republican and Republicans who dare rebel against his candidacy do so at the risk of their career by inviting primary challenges forevermore. Trump will demand no such loyalty. And since either men would likely win along with a Republican House and Senate, the kind of unity Cruz would expect (and demand) promises a rightward swing unlike anything our nation has ever seen.
5. He’d brilliant and he loves that you think he’s crazy.
Ted Cruz is an Ivy League-educated savant who plays an animatronic Reagan impersonator/Internet commenter on TV. Anyone who believes his eagerness to enrage liberals for stupidity will be sadly disappointed. If you want to understand the extent that he goes to in order to affect his image as a perfectly realized Christian conservative, read this by Jeb Lund: “Ted Cruz Isn’t Crazy — He’s Much Worse.”
His ability to signal and market his lunacy is entirely the result of “intelligent design.” Even his gaffes are scripted and planned. Even his failures are designed to prove his purity. Even his willingness to cower to Trump is a sign that he believes he will win because any other outcome is unacceptable to Ted Cruz and God.
Photo: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) (R) greets businessman Donald Trump onstage as they address a Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst