Better Off Ted
There are lots of things to regret about the surging campaign of Republican front-runner/leaking colostomy bag Donald Trump: the way the American electoral process has become the sport of clowns; the fact that he’s so badly shaken the G.O.P. that people like John Podhoretz are starting to sound sensible by comparison; the vast attention he gets from the media every time he lets forth a corned beef gurgle, pulling focus away from the amazing fact that an actual socialist is not just running for President but has won several states; and the prospect, however slight, that we may be facing four to eight years of Europeans thinking we are even stupider than they already do.
But perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that, with Trump swaying delegates and seizing headlines all over the country, we have barely taken notice of the fact that, were he to drop dead tomorrow from his heart simply refusing to pump any more blood into what is essentially an overcooked Shrinky Dink of a businessman, the Republican Party’s second-runner up, the man who would ascend to the position of heir apparent for the party of Lincoln, the best they can do after Donald fucking Trump, is Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz. When I talk about how this is the least losable election in recent presidential history, I don’t mean that Hillary Clinton is some kind of bulletproof, unstoppable juggernaut of electability; I don’t even mean that the right wing has fallen under the sway of a carpet cleaning bag full of FD&C orange #1. What I mean is that even with Trump out of the picture, the Republicans can’t come up with anyone better than Ted Cruz, a man so widely despised that some of the most repulsive conservative ideologues in America think he’s a total dick.
Cruz’s politics are certainly easy enough to hate. He’s a noxious right-wing shitbag of the Tea Party stripe, completely devoted to the idea that the best way to manage the government is to starve it into submission. He’s famous — or infamous — for bringing the country close to a complete federal shutdown against the wishes of everyone of every political persuasion, and for filibustering when he had zero chance of accomplishing anything whatsoever, establishing himself as the sort of cheap political grandstander who has no particular goals other than to hear himself talk. He’s rabidly anti-abortion even for a Republican, bewilderingly anti-intellectual for someone with a posh Ivy education, and an inveterate pseudo-populist panderer given that his wife is an investment banker. Pretty much everything you might hate about the modern conservative wing of the G.O.P. is embodied in Ted Cruz.
Indeed, one of the hilarious ironies of Cruz being the second runner-up to Trump is that, gross as he is, the Donald is almost certainly not as toxic politically as the junior senator from Texas. Lots of Trump’s gas is just stroking the punters, and lots more is pure fantasy he’d never be able to enact even if he wanted to, which he doesn’t. Trump and Cruz would both be nightmares for the working class, though Trump would probably just carve away at the upper tax brackets, whereas Cruz’ 19% sales tax on all goods and services would be crippling for all but the super-rich. Trump is too much of an urbane television star to have any real animus against gays, while Cruz would be happy to shovel them all into a landfill if he thought he could get away with it. And Trump is at least fond of gestures that make him look like he’s sharing his largesse, but Cruz is just cheap and mean. In short, Trump is a shallow, coarse phony who doesn’t know what he’s doing, whereas Cruz is a dyed-in-the-wool true believer who thinks he’s got it all figured out.
It is for exactly these reasons that a lot of people, up to and including former president Jimmy Carter, think that Trump is actually a better bet, voting-wise, than Cruz; the theory is that Trump, who is nothing if not gifted at cyphering the lowest common denominator, would at least reach the White House in a state of being easily influenced by whichever way the political wind was blowing. Cruz, on the other hand, is a hardcore ideologue who thinks he figured out how the world ought to be run when he was 17 years old and has seen no reason to re-examine those beliefs in the subsequent decades. Aside from an unshakable belief in his own greatness and some vaguely formed notions of classiness, Trump wouldn’t bring any real positions to the Presidency, while Cruz is considerably to the right of even his former boss, George W. Bush, who disliked him so much that even after Cruz’s work on his 2000 campaign, he ‘rewarded’ Cruz with a low-level position no one else wanted.
Which, of course, brings us to the funniest thing about Ted Cruz, and the thing that would make this race so super-hilarious even if Donald Trump were to drop out of it: nobody, but nobody, likes him. Everyone who has spent more than two minutes with Ted Cruz seems to completely despise him; how he’s managed to assemble a campaign team is a testament to the power of money. Former classmates, co-workers, political allies, journalists, teachers, staffers, aides, colleagues, bosses, ex-roommates: ask any of them and they will tell you that Ted Cruz is a liar, an egomaniac, a creep, a jerk, a monster. And these are people who are, more or less, in agreement with his politics! Out of 50 U.S. senators — a number of whom are basically in full agreement with Cruz’s stances on major political issues — not a single one has been willing to come forward and endorse him, even though that may mean, eventually, throwing their support to a sentient bottle of ultra-nationalist hair gel. I’ve said before that, despite all the moaning they’re doing now, the Republicans will eventually come around on Trump, because, while he may be currently uncontrollable, he knows how to make a deal. I can’t see anyone coming around on Ted Cruz, because while he’s certainly a creature of party, he’s also viewed by that party as the kind of creature you’d just as soon scrape off the bottom of your shoe.
Of course, the hell of all this — the thing that keeps us from enjoying the sheer hilarity of all this comedy — is that Trump or Cruz just might win. The Democrats might just be that incompetent. It’s one thing to watch two despicable oafs pounding the hell out of each other, but it’s quite another knowing that whichever one is left standing is coming to your house afterwards. But I’m not quite panicked yet, and here’s why: this is obviously one of the most racist countries in the world, and yet it elected a black man twice. Now all that man’s party has to do is defeat an opposition where the leading candidate is someone everyone is afraid of; the second-leading candidate is someone everyone hates; the third-leading candidate is someone everyone agrees isn’t ready to be President; the fourth-leading candidate is someone nobody has heard of; and the fifth-leading candidate doesn’t exist. Good luck, Hill!