Monday, May 9, 2016

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 election.

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.

Salon’s Heather Digby describes this puzzle as follows:

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. [1] 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. [2]

  1. 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.

  1. 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. [3]

3. 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 Franklin Delano 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. [4] That there will always be evil in the world and injustice in the world but America stands up to it and confronts it. [5]

4. 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 fantastical claim.

5. 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. [6] 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. [7]

6. 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 enthusiastically reject.

7. 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. [8] 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.

8. 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 neighbors.

The United States 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. [9]

9. 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 upward mobility.

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. [10]

10. 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. [11] Ronald Reagan spoke of the purpose that defined our party then and that must unite and drive our party now.

11. 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.

Gays and lesbians and other groups have seen their constitutionally protected rights vastly expanded (and respected) by the Democratic Party.

Also, 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. [12]

12. 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 this wall”.

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 party. [13]

13. 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 threat. [14]

14. 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.

China 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.

15. 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 years. Iran 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? [16]

16. 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.

The 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.

During 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? [17]

17. 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 medicine? [18]

18. “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.

Countries 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? [19]

19. 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 wife, Heidi.
To our precious girls.

To my mom, the prayer warrior. [20]

20. 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.

The language of “prayer warrior” has a very specific meaning. Christian fascists believe in the power of prayer to impact public policy. In fact, there are “prayer warrior” training camps across the United States where Christian fascists are taught that it is “God’s will” that they enter politics and use any means—including lies, trickery, and deception—to change America’s secular politics and law. The Christian Right’s prayer warriors want to impose a Christian dictatorship in the United States.

To my dad who has traveled this nation preaching the gospel.
To Carly Fiorina who has been an incredible, phenomenal running mate.
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 Indiana. We 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 for liberty.

I am not suspending our fight to defend the constitution, to defend the Judeo-Christian values that built America. [21]

21. 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 agnostics.

Ted 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 exists.

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?

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