The GOP's Delusional Thinking: Annotating Ted Cruz’s Surrender Speech to Donald Trump
As in the movie Highlander,
“there can be only one”. Donald Trump now reigns supreme over the Republican
2016 presidential primaries. Earlier this week, Ted Cruz surrendered to
“Trumpmania”. John Kasich has finally acknowledged the obvious as well—there is
no reasonable path for him to become the GOP’s nominee in the 2016 presidential
As the Republican Party’s elites begin to conduct a post
mortem for their failure to stop Donald Trump (and how he will likely lose the
general election) they need to look no farther than Ted Cruz’s surrender speech
for insights. Ted Cruz, in many ways, embodies the various factions of the
Republican Party base. On paper, he should have been an ideal candidate. Yet,
he was bulldozed by Donald Trump’s insurgent campaign.
As loathsome as I find his
politics, I cannot help but feel sorry for him. Ted Cruz was everything the
base of the GOP said it wanted. He is an evangelical Christian, a social and
fiscal conservative, a demagogic warrior for the far right who went to Washington and did
exactly what all these people say they wanted the Republicans to do when they
voted for them in the 2010 and 2014 midterms. He obstructed the president at
every turn, angrily defied the GOP leadership, and answered only to the Tea
Party base. Yet it wasn’t good enough.
In the next section, I annotate Ted Cruz’s surrender speech
in order to gain insight into this puzzle by highlighting the alternate reality
that the Republican Party and its media have constructed for its public.
My annotations are italicized.
Let me tell you about the America that I love. Our nation is
an exceptional nation. We were founded by risk takers and pioneers, brave men
and women who put everything on the line for freedom.  We began with a
revolutionary idea that our rights don’t come from kings or queens or even
presidents but from god almighty.
That every one of us has an unalienable right to life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 
America was built on land stolen from First Nations people and with the
labor and blood of black American slaves. The United States was also founded
as a white supremacist Herrenvolk democracy that defined freedom relative
to the near exclusive right of white men to own black human property. The
reality of the color line—and of black Americans’ experiences in
particular—is the asterisk that complicates every narrative about
“democracy” and “freedom” from the founding to the present.
Except for the gays and lesbians,
transgender, and other people who Ted Cruz, the Christian Right, and
movement conservatives want to see disenfranchised and stripped of their
equal rights under the Constitution.
And that to protect those rights the constitution serves as
change to bind the mischief of government. 
Contemporary movement conservatism is motivated by a desire to make government
so weak that it can be drowned in a bathtub like a baby. Today’s Republicans
view government as an enemy. Their conceptions are fixated on what is known as
a “negative” conception of liberty. Their ideology is unable to accept that
government can be a force for good that can protect individual and group
rights, promote economic growth, provide a social safety net, and improve society
by properly tending to the Commons. In total, this is the “positive” liberty
and freedom understood by presidents such as FranklinDelano
Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and black Americans who after the Civil War,
spoke of being “freed into the arms of government”.
For more than two centuries, we have protected those rights.
We believe in equal rights for everybody — that everybody deserves dignity and
respect whether they agree with you or not. That there will always be evil in the world and injustice in the
world but America
stands up to it and confronts it. 
The eliminationist and other violent rhetoric towards “liberals”, “Democrats”
and “progressives”, as well as efforts to censor, intimidate, and bully by
elected Republican officials and the Right-wing hate media, undermine this
America, like other nation states, is selective in its use of both hard and
soft power. The United
States does not always confront “evil” and
“injustice”. There are many such examples: the United
States is waging a war on “terrorism” that, by its own
admission, has killed many thousands of innocent people in the Middle East and elsewhere. The United States has supported
dictatorial and authoritarian regimes around the world. The United States has also suppressed peoples
movements and efforts to create democratic change across Latin America, Asian,
and Africa. The United
States also chose to not intervene to stop genocides in
countries/regions such as Rwanda
and the Sudan.
Even from a Montgomery
jail our voice for justice and equality rings out for the ages.  America
is hopeful, optimistic. America
is kind. We are not boastful or mean spirited. America is brave. We keep our word
and we believe in peace through strength. 
Conservatives consistently misappropriate the name and legacy of Doctor Martin
Luther King Junior. King was a radical thinker. Conservatives both during
King’s life and in the present reject his humanistic vision and deep critique
of white supremacy, classism and militarism. Dr. King supported slavery reparations,
peace abroad, a robust social safety net, guaranteed minimum income,
affirmative action for black Americans, and wanted the United Nations to
investigate the United States for violating the rights of black and brown
people. These are all positions that Ted Cruz and the Republican Party
Victims of America’s drones, other covert actions, and who were tortured and
killed by those foreign officers and soldiers trained at the School of the Americas
would likely disagree. The many innocent people who were tortured by the
Central Intelligence Agency, contractors, and United States military personnel
during the post 9/11 “War on Terror” would also disagree with the premise that
the United States is “kind”, “brave”, and not “mean spirited”. The hundreds of
thousands of Iraqis and others who have died across the Arab world and Middle
East because of America’s
preemptive wars and coups would also disagree.
We have spilled more blood, spent more treasure in defense
of liberty than any country in history yet we do not engage in wars of
conquest. We do not seek to enrich ourselves at our neighbors’ expense.  America
is the land that gave my mom, an Irish Italian girl growing up in a working
class family the chance to be the first in her family ever to go to college, to
become a pioneering computer programmer in the 1950s.
The Monroe Doctrine and “Manifest Destiny”
established a sphere of influence for the United States in the Western
hemisphere. Within this sphere of influence, the United States has overthrown
governments, allowed its corporations to exploit the resources of independent
countries, and seized land and resources at will. The Mexican American War and
various other “police actions” and “interventions” were direct efforts by the United States
to conquer other countries and to enrich itself at the expense of its
has engaged in wars of conquest outside of this sphere of influence through the
use of proxy states and movements, covert actions, and on occasion, publicly
known direct action by the military or other forces. The United States projects and
maintains its empire through 800 military bases in 80 countries. As
David Vine observes in The Nation, this is likely more than any other
empire, people, or nation in human history.
I love you, mom. America is the land that welcomed
my father as a penny immigrant. He’d seen oppression, prison and torture in Cuba and for him America was hope. It was
opportunity. In 1957, if someone had told that teenager washing dishes for
$0.50 an hour that one day his son would be elected to the Senate and he would
get a chance to cast his ballot for his son to be president of the United States
That teenage immigrant washing dishes could never have
believed it and yet that’s exactly what happened. Only in America. 
This is a standard “American Exceptionalism” talking point about the myth of
meritocracy and how the United
States is a “unique” country of
“immigrants”. There are many examples, from countries around the world, where
people willingly immigrate or arrive as refugees and enjoy intergenerational
In recent months, a lot of people have been talking about
what happened 40 years ago at the Republican convention in Kansas City — our
party’s last contested convention. When I look back at that convention in Missouri, I think of the
speech that Ronald Reagan gave to our party. He spoke not of the next four
years. He saw not the close horizons that of interest to those who seek to
build their own fortunes in the short term but instead he looked to the
distance times and — that concerned the men and women who’s purpose it is to
secure the blessings of liberty to their posterity. 
Ronald Reagan’s policies destroyed unions and hollowed out the American middle
class while further enshrining the neo liberal order in service of the global
plutocrats. Reagan was also pragmatic. He raised taxes 11 times, passed gun
control laws, tripled the federal debt, expanded the federal government, engaged
in bipartisan policy making with Democrats, and negotiated with both the Soviet
Union and “terrorists” in Iran.
Reagan also expanded reproduction health rights for women in California during his time as governor. At
present, Ronald Reagan would be rejected as too “liberal” and a “R.I.N.O.”
conservative” by the Republican Party and its media.
Ronald Reagan spoke of the next 100 years and of the
generations of Americans who would come to know whether our nation had escaped
the existential threat of nuclear war, who would know whether our party had
succeeded in its fight against the erosion of constitutional freedoms that only
grow and multiple under rule of the Democratic Party.  Ronald Reagan spoke
of the purpose that defined our party then and that must unite and drive our
Ted Cruz confuses the “right” of Christian theocrats and other conservatives to
deny the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and liberties of other Americans
with an “erosion” of constitutional freedom. Moreover, Republicans through
voter suppression laws and other means have acted to restrict the voting rights
of millions of Americans.
and lesbians and other groups have seen their constitutionally protected rights
vastly expanded (and respected) by the Democratic Party.
see my previous comments on “positive” versus “negative” liberty.
The Republican Party of Ronald Reagan and of George Herbert
Walker Bush ensured that thousands of nuclear missiles that the Soviet Union
and the United States had targeted each other were never fired and that Soviet
communism was consigned to the ash heap of history. 
The Soviet Union was defeated by the
continuity in American foreign policy (some aspects successful; other aspect
not so much) across presidential administrations and parties. Contrary to
Republican myth-making and fantasy, the Berlin
Wall was not brought down because Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev to “tear down
They fought hard so that our American freedoms were not lost
to any foreign foe nor sacrificed in pursuit of any domestic agenda of the Democratic
See my earlier comments on eliminationist and violent rhetoric by Republicans
and the Right-wing media. Democrats are not simply one of the country’s two,
main, institutionalized political parties. No. They are mortal enemies, traitors,
and a type of fifth column that wants to destroy the United States of America. This
language is encourages violence and domestic terrorism.
Yet the challenges we face today remain as great as ever.
Americans are deeply frustrated and desperately want to change the path that
we’re on. We have economic stagnation at home and our constitutional rights are
under assault. Under the Obama-Clinton foreign policy, Russia has emerged as a resurgent
Under Barack Obama, the unemployment rate is now near five percent. Gas is at
the lowest price in recent memory.
Russia “reemerged” as a “threat” in response to
the Bush-Cheney administration.
looks with a covetous eye on the lands of our allies in the region. A nuclear North Korea and a near nuclear Iran yearn to devastate our
homeland and radical Islamic terrorism unleashes an evil that threatens the
world. This year, two weeks before our party gathers in Cleveland
all Americans will celebrate the 240th birthday of the United States of America.
Iran is not an existential
threat to the United States.
Likewise, Islamic terrorism is not an existential threat to the United States or Europe.
North Korea represents a very particular and unique challenge for global
diplomacy, one that has vexed policy makers in multiple countries across many
is a sovereign country and regional power that like other nation states has an
inherent right to develop nuclear weapons. Foreign policy experts in numerous
countries and across lines of party and ideology have praised the Iranian
nuclear deal as the best option and outcome reasonably available.
American parents and grandparents will watch the fireworks
with their kids and will dream of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren to
come and wonder how those future generations of Americans will remember what we
do not only this summer but in the coming decades. Will we rise to meet the
challenges that face our nation on the international stage or will we withdraw
and cower timidly from the world?
Will we secure freedom of thought, expression and religion
for future generations?
Or will we succumb to the tyranny of a political correctness
and the temptation of radical politics and balkanization here at home? 
The Republican Party has become increasingly radicalized and extreme since the
election of Barack Obama, the United
States’ first black president. There are
many examples of this revanchist and borderline seditious behavior.
GOP has refused to cooperate on basic legislation and in service to the letter
and spirit of the United
States Constitution in terms of the Supreme
Court or filling other vacancies.
Obama’s tenure, the Republican Party has taken unprecedented actions such as
shutting down the government and threatening to default on the country’s
financial obligations. Republicans have used the language of the Southern
slaveocracy and Confederacy such as “nullification” and “states rights” to
oppose Obama and the Democrats. The Republican Party and its media have also
slurred Obama with “Birtherism” and other bizarre conspiracy theories that were
designed to mark the country’s first black president as illegitimate and a
usurper who is not a “real” (read: white) American.
Will we hold fast to our founding values of rewarding
talent, hard work and industry or will we continue on that path of creeping
socialism that incentivizes apathy and dependency? 
Since the Reagan 80s, the social safety net has been eviscerated in the United States.
Republicans have continued this assault: public education, school lunch and
breakfast programs, aid for the unemployed, as well as assistance to the poor,
women, and children have been gutted. America’s infrastructure is inefficient,
dangerous, and poorly maintained. Wealth and income inequality are at extreme
levels that rival the Gilded Age. If there is “socialism” in the United States
it is embodied by the submerged state and how the financiers, bankers, and other
Wall Street plutocrats are subsidized by the public, do not pay taxes, are
protected from prosecution for their misdeeds, and are a parasitic class that
lives off of “carried interest” and other dividend income.
Will we deliver control of health care to citizens and their
doctors or will we continue down the Obamacare road to second rate socialized
“Obamacare” has been a great success.
Millions of Americans now have access to quality and affordable healthcare. The
number of uninsured people has continued to drop; costs are also being
controlled, and in many cases, lowered.
in Europe and elsewhere with “second rate
socialized medicine” have longer life spans, are happier, and far better health
outcomes for most illnesses than the “for profit” American health care system.
Will we keep America
safe from the threats of nuclear war and atomic terrorism?
Or will we pass onto future generations a land devastated
and destroyed by the enemies of civilization? 
See my earlier comments on existential threats (not) facing the United States.
Global warming is much more likely to destroy the United States than is nuclear war
or atomic terrorism. Cruz’s comment is important, however, for how it fits into
the Christian Right-wing’s millenarian eschatological “End Times” fantasies
about the “Second Coming” of Jesus Christ and a war between the forces of
“Satan” and “God”.
This is the responsibility with which we have been charged
by history. This is our challenge. This is the fight that falls to our
generation. When we launched this campaign 13 months ago we saw a movement
grow. The pundits all said it was hopeless but we saw over 300,000 volunteers
all across this nation.
Over 1.5 million contributions averaging about $60 each.
Many of those volunteers, many of those contributions you
never forget. Just a few days ago two young kids ages four and six handed me
two envelopes full of change. All of their earnings from their lemonade stand.
They wanted the campaign to have it. That’s what built this campaign. That’s
what fuels this movement.
Thank you to each of you. Incredible patriots who have
fought so hard to save our nation.
And I’m with you. I am so grateful to you, to my amazing
To our precious girls.
To my mom, the prayer warrior. 
The Christian Right is an extremely powerful force in the Republican Party.
Cruz represents the Dominionist and Reconstructionist wing of the GOP, a group
that believes that the United
States should be a theocracy run by
“Biblical law”. Cruz has signaled to this repeatedly during his campaign, most
notably his comment that he is a “Christian” before an “American” and that the United States
Constitution should be reconciled with the Bible.
To my dad who has traveled this nation preaching the gospel.
To Carly Fiorina who has been an incredible, phenomenal
What you have done — the movement that you have started is
extraordinary. I love each and every one of you.
From the beginning I’ve said that I would continue on as
long as there was a viable path to victory. Tonight, I’m sorry to say it
appears that path has been foreclosed. Together, we left it all on the field in
gave it everything we’ve got but the voters chose another path. And so with a
heavy heart but with boundless optimism for the long term future of our nation,
we are suspending our campaign. But hear me now I am not suspending our fight
I am not suspending our fight to defend the constitution, to
defend the Judeo-Christian values that built America. 
This is another signal to the Christian Domininist and Reconstructionist
fascist movement. Movement conservatives and other members of the Republican
Party are also receptive to this narrative. Contrary to the myth-making, lies,
plagiarism, and willful distortions of American history as offered by
“scholars” such as David Barton, the United States was not founded as a Judeo-Christian
country. The Framers desired that there be a strong wall between Church and
State. The Framers also included among their number Deists, atheists, and
Cruz, like other Republicans, is also confirming his Right-wing bonafides as a
supporter of Christian Zionism and Israel’s policies against the
Palestinian people. In keeping with their mythological and primitive thinking,
Ted Cruz and other members of the radical Christian Right believe that Israel
must be protected because it will be the site of the “End Times” battle they
believe is necessary for them to be “raptured” into “heaven”.
Our movement will continue and I give you my word that I
will continue this fight with all of my strength and all of my ability.
You are extraordinary and we will continue to fight next
week and next month and next year and together we will continue as long as god
grants us the strength to fight on.
For one thing remains as true today as it was 40 years ago
in Kansas City.
In this fight for the long term future of America there is no substitute for
victory. There is no substitute for the America that each and every one of
us loves with all of our heart, that we believe in with all of our heart and
that together we will restore as a shining city on the hill for every
generation to come. Thank you to each of you and God bless you.
It is unclear if Ted Cruz and the other Republican
candidates who recite the narratives and talking points highlighted above
actually believe them, or are simply following a script that in their estimate
will satisfy the average, low information, GOP voter. Both rationales do great
harm to the American body politic. The first, perhaps, can be understood as the
result of ignorance and how people have a remarkable capacity to twist the
facts in order to fit their desires and standing priors. The second explanation
is craven realpolitik where victory matters more than serving the truth and the
Common Good: this is a betrayal of democracy.
As historian Richard Hofstadter argued some decades ago, the
modern Republican Party, and movement conservatism more generally, are a type
of political religion. They exist outside of empirical reality; the Right-wing
news entertainment disinformation machine has fully propagandized its public; as
such, epistemic closure is the status quo ante for the American Right.
The brain structures and psychological processes of
conservative-authoritarians are fear centered, tend towards simplistic binary
thinking, and have an in intolerance for ambiguity and complexity.
Conservative-authoritarians, as explained by “terror management theory”, also
have a profound fear of their own mortality and tend to fixate on “the flag,
guns, and God” as a means of soothing those anxieties.
The Republican Party is facing a crisis of both demography
(their voters are older and more white than a general population that is
becoming more diverse and young) and empirical reality. As demonstrated by Ted
Cruz’s surrender speech to Donald Trump, it will be increasingly difficult for
Republicans to win presidential elections precisely because their voters live
in an alternate reality--one that cannot be reconciled with the world as it actually
Consequently, the Republican Party establishment is left
with a problem of their own making. Do they tell rank and file conservatives
that they have been systematically lied to by their leaders, and together,
forge a new path forward? Or do the Republican Party’s elites double down on
the lies, conspiracy theories, and disinformation with the hope that the right
mix of deception will help them win the 2020 presidential election?