Hated by almost everyone, the ultrareactionary senator represents the only alternative to Donald Trump for Republican leaders.
Ted Cruz has made no mystery of it: he hates “New York values.” For this religious ultraconservative, a fierce opponent of gay marriage and abortion, New York personifies the moral decadence of the United States. With such a message, it is difficult for the Texan senator to hope to shine during Tuesday’s primary. The polls also promise him failure against Donald Trump.*
Cruz is also loathed by Washington. In Congress, where Republicans and Democrats disagree on everything, they are unanimous in their antipathy toward the 45-year-old senator, an antipathy that goes beyond the halls of the Capitol. Wherever he goes, the arrogant and ambitious Cruz seems to leave a lot of bad memories behind him … and very few friends.
Former high school and college classmates, ex-colleagues and superiors who have rubbed shoulders with him describe him as “strident,” “a crank” and “arrogant,” a man that they would not trust with the White House for anything. “I would rather have anybody else be the president of the United States. Anyone,” declared his first-year college roommate to The Daily Beast in 2013. “I would rather pick somebody from the phone book.” Disliked, Cruz nonetheless embodies the Republican Party’s only hope for blocking Trump.
Born in Canada in 1970 to an American mother and a Cuban father who fled Batista’s dictatorship, Rafael Edward ‘Ted’ Cruz arrived in Texas at the age of four. Cruz was an exceptional student who, from the time he was an adolescent, was so passionate about ultraliberal economic thought and the American Constitution that he studied at a conservative institute twice a week. This is where Cruz developed his political vision — minimalist federal government — and his talent as a speaker. After graduation from Princeton, he studied law at Harvard, where his criminal law professor, Alan Dershowitz, remembers a brilliant student who was an ardent defender of the death penalty.
As a young lawyer, Cruz clerked for the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, then he worked at a Washington firm where he notably defended the National Rifle Association, the powerful arms lobby, which is one of his biggest causes. In 1999, he joined George W. Bush’s campaign team. He was in charge of legal issues and found himself on the front line during the vote recount in Florida. Bush’s victory should have opened the doors of the Bush administration to him, but his personality was a deterrent. A close aid of the ex-president told Mother Jones, “Ted thought he was an expert on everything … It was his inability to be part of the team. That’s exactly what he was: a big asshole.”
After ten years as solicitor general of Texas, he began to lean toward political life in 2012. Carried by the tea party wave, he entered the Senate. He was an intractable ideologue, hostile to any kind of compromise, who made repealing Obama’s health care law his main battle. Refusing to vote for the federal budget, he was one of the main architects of the government shutdown, the temporary closure of the federal government administration in October 2013. This episode earned him the hatred of the majority of his colleagues, but also the admiration of the most extreme fringes of the Republican electorate, who already burn with anger at the party’s elite.
A Conservative brought up on the Bible and the Constitution, Cruz plays the anti-establishment card to perfection. Having trailed in the polls, he decided to lay low and avoid any direct confrontation with Donald Trump. On Feb. 1 to everyone’s surprise, he won Iowa, the first primary or state caucus on the calendar. Since then, the establishment candidates, led by Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, have dropped out, leading the way to a confusing duel between Cruz and Trump. For many Republican elected representatives, this is like choosing between the plague and cholera. As Lindsey Graham summarized in January, “It’s like being shot or poisoned.” Since then, the moderate senator of South Carolina has had to eat his words and, like 30 or so other representatives, is now supporting Cruz.
With nearly 200 delegates needed to catch up with Trump, Cruz’s only hope of winning the Republican candidacy rests on holding a “contested” Republican convention in Cleveland in mid-July. This will be the case if Trump does not win the necessary majority of 1,237 delegates. Cruz has cunningly been anticipating such a scenario for the last few months and has had multiple successes in the delegate elections. Seven months ahead of the presidential election, the Texan senator firmly believes in his chances. He has believed in them for nearly 30 years.
In a short autobiography dating back to his high school years, young Ted unveiled his consuming ambitions: go to Princeton, study law at Harvard, become a lawyer, get elected and then, finally, conquer the White House. He has only one step left to climb. And against all odds, he should be able to count on the support of a party that deeply hates him … but that hates him a little bit less than Donald Trump.
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