Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cruz Control?

Most of us didn’t know much about U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) until fairly recently. He became widely known, of course, after his 21-hour pseudo-filibuster on the Senate floor on Sept. 24. And since October 1 he, and those who agree with him, have been largely in control of the partial shutdown of the federal government.

Some basic facts about Cruz, who has been a member of the Senate only since January of this year: He was named Rafael Edward Cruz at the time of his birth in December 1970 in Calgary, Canada. Even though his father, Rafael Cruz, was born in Cuba, his mother, Eleanor Darragh, was born in Delaware. Because of his mother’s citizenship, Sen. Cruz is also an U.S. citizen.
After graduating as the 1988 valedictorian of Second Baptist High School in Houston, Cruz graduated from Princeton University and then was a magna cum laude graduate at Harvard Law School in 1995. He is clearly nobody’s dummy. But even brilliant people can be misguided in their political and religious views.
Recently I have received two emails mentioning Cruz’s father. A “Thinking Friend” in Louisiana wrote that Ted Cruz’s family became Baptists when they escaped from Cuba. Dan also said, “I saw a video of Cruz's father, speaking in broken English, comparing Fidel Castro and Barack Obama.” (Here is a link to that video.)
Then a good friend at church sent the link to this article by Chris Hedges and asked for my comments. Hedges refers to Rafael Cruz as “a rabid right-wing Christian preacher.” That seems to be an accurate depiction of the man.
Rafael was born in Cuba in 1939, and as a teenager became involved in the revolution against Batista. In 1957 he was jailed and tortured before fleeing to Texas with a student visa, where he graduated from the University of Texas in 1961.
In a recent advertisement for an audio Spanish Bible narrated by Rafael Cruz, he is said to be “Director of Purifying Fire Ministries and a professor of Bible and Theology at Advance Bible Institute.” I could find no other information about either entity. And I have also been unable to find any church location for Cruz’s ministries in Carrollton, Texas, where he lives.
Suzanne Hinn, wife of televangelist Benny Hinn, is the founder of an organization called Purifying Fire International, and Cruz has been identified with that group. But in spite of the similarity of the names, I could find no evidence that they are linked, in spite of some articles (probably incorrectly) connecting the two.
An Oct. 1 article on Huffington Post links Cruz to an ultra-rightwing ideology known as Christian dominionism or Christian reconstructionism, a frightful theology I wrote about in my book “Fed Up with Fundamentalism” (pp. 48-51). That in itself is cause for considerable concern.
Rafael Cruz, who became an American citizen in 2005, has been an outspoken cheerleader for his son Ted and his ideas, especially among conservative Christians. A recent story in the Washington Times is titled, “Rafael Cruz energizes Colorado Christians.” He was speaking at a Restoring Christian Values brunch before preaching at a Colorado Springs church on Sunday, Sept. 29.
The brunch was partially sponsored by CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family. In an Oct. 4 interview posted on their website, Cruz spoke mainly, and in strong terms, against Obamacare, which he opposes as much as his son does.
The welfare of the nation will continue to suffer if we allow the country to fall under the control of ideas forwarded so forcefully by Sen. Cruz and his father.


  1. You're so very right, Leroy. Thanks for the essay.

  2. Here are the opening comments from a "Thinking Friend," whom I will allow to remain anonymous.

    "Thanks, Leroy. I read your blog with much interest and much disagreement. I am not a political parson. I refuse to let my mind be cluttered with such negative, political garbage.

    "I think a preacher should be above partisan politics, and use his time and energies pursuing for something more constructive. I am one of those who believe that politics is dirty, and when preachers get involved, they don't clean up politics, politics dirties them up."

    Comments anyone?

    1. Well, I think it is kind of like saying scientists shouldn't be involved in public policy, or musicians, or actors, etc. Just leave politics to the politicians. The fallacy there is, shouldn't we have informed opinions about nuclear weapons or climate change? Don't we need scientists for these kind of issues? Similarly, when moral questions get mixed into political campaigns, don't we want our moral leaders to help illuminate what is at stake? I'm thinking of issues like social safety nets vs. encouraging dependency, or "too big to fail" vs. let the market choose winners and losers. I think we need our pastors to give us their educated opinions on all sorts of public policy questions, and then we can see which pastors' opinions make the most sense.

    2. Thanks, Phil (Pip), for sharing your comments.

  3. I've been trying to give the benefit of the doubt to those whom I disagree with on substance, because their tactics seem non-violent, and I know there have been times as a minority I wished my side could have as effective leverage as they seem to have right now. I think our system has been devised to protect organized minorities, and the Tea Party seems to display admirable organization skills and financing. Someone told me the other day that the Koch Brothers have budgeted $200,000,000 to overturn Obamacare. If this is true, and if the Tea Party elected officials are "employed" by this benefactor, no wonder they are so rigid and uncompromising. Does this give our democracy a bad name, that money can obstruct government, or does this just show that if you are motivated enough and can solicit enough support (money) you can accomplish your goals.

    I'm still holding out hope that our system can survive this challenge, and that our side can get better organized and can solicit more support (money) than their side. This may just be a case study in power politics, and may the best side win, and may it be the side I like . . .

    1. It was encouraging to read yesterday that the Koch brothers "have abandoned the Tea Party government shutdown strategy." But it is still disturbing how people with great wealth have so much influence on what goes on in this country.

  4. While Christian Dominionism and similar theologies play a large role in the crisis, there is a secular side as well. I recently learned a new term, "Tough Luck Libertarianism," from an article in American Prospect. See this link:

    Political philosopher Robert Nozick is the reported source of Tough Luck Libertarianism, which holds not just that government regulation and redistribution do not work, but that they are in all cases immoral. For instance, libertarian blogger Sasha Bolokh "argued that it would be immoral to tax people to prevent an asteroid from destroying the earth." Think about that for a minute. Some people would rather have the whole world destroyed than to pay taxes. Now think about why Democratic arguments about pragmatic solutions have fallen on deaf ears. For these people, even a tax that would save the lives of seven billion people is immoral. So guess where that leaves ordinary taxes for ordinary government pursuits.

    A major source for the American Prospect article is the book "The Tough Luck Constitution and the Assault on Health Care Reform" by Andrew Koppelman, a Northwestern University law professor. The book is published by Oxford University Press USA. See this link:

    1. Intriguing comments, Craig, so I looked up Robert Nozick and found this:

      It doesn't address the asteroid example, but it does have this interesting twist: ""The libertarian position I once propounded," Nozick wrote in an essay published in the late '80s, "now seems to me seriously inadequate." In Anarchy democracy was nowhere to be found; Nozick now believed that democratic institutions "express and symbolize … our equal human dignity, our autonomy and powers of self-direction." In Anarchy, the best government was the least government, a value-neutral enforcer of contracts; now, Nozick concluded, "There are some things we choose to do together through government in solemn marking of our human solidarity, served by the fact that we do them together in this official fashion ..."

    2. Also, I looked up the blog you cite of Sasha Volokh ("The Volokh Conspiracy") and found the asteroid quote. This particular blog entry is not by Volokh, but by Ilya Somin, and in context it reads much differently:

      "At least as a matter of moral theory, it’s a bad idea for libertarians to defend absolute property rights regardless of consequences. Doing so is both intellectually weak and unlikely to persuade anyone not already strongly sympathetic to libertarianism. The defender of absolute property rights will have to face painful hypotheticals such as the following:

      What if redistributing a tiny fraction of George Soros or Rupert Murdoch’s fortune is the only way to save 1000 innocent people from starvation through no fault of their own? What if the only way to save the world from an asteroid strike is to violate the property rights of some misanthropic individual who doesn’t care if civilization is wiped out?

      As I have pointed out previously, libertarian property rights absolutists are not the only ones who face such problems. The same issue arises with any theory of absolute rights:

      Let’s say you believe that torture is always wrong. Then you would not resort to it even in a case where relatively mild torture of a terrorist is the only way to prevent a nuclear attack that kills millions. What if you think that it’s always wrong to knowingly kill innocent civilians? Then you would oppose strategic bombing even if it were the only way to defeat Nazi Germany in World War II. How about absolute rights to freedom of political speech? If you are committed to them, that means you oppose censorship even if it’s the only way to prevent Nazi or communist totalitarians from coming to power and slaughtering millions.

      But the fact that advocates of other ideologies run into similar problems when advocating absolute rights is no reason for libertarians to replicate their mistakes."

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Thank you for the link to the Slate article. It is wonderful. I think most people looking at libertarian arguments figure something is missing, and that article spells out what that something is. Abstract theory is frequently the enemy of real world results. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society." While I was double-checking that one, I stumbled on a couple of other good ones:

      "The only simplicity for which I would give a straw is that which is on the other side of the complex--not that which never has divined it."

      "Constitutions are intended to preserve practical and substantial rights, not to maintain theories."

    5. Craig, thanks for adding another dimension to the discussion about the opposition to Obamacare. But it seems to me the ideas of "tough luck libertarianism" is much less of a threat to the nation than Christian Dominionism.

      "Advanced by a fringe libertarian movement intent upon getting government out of most aspects of Americans’ lives, the political philosophy behind the tortured constitutional argument against the mandate to buy health insurance boiled down to: 'If you get sick, it’s your tough luck,' Koppelman says."

      (See more at:

  5. Since making this posting, the Value Voters Summit in a straw poll for their choice for a 2016 candidate for President have overwhelmingly selected Sen. Cruz. He received 42% of the vote and the candidates tied for second place (Santorum and Carson) received 12% apiece.

  6. Here is the first part of an email from local Thinking Friend Eric Dollard (and posted here with his permission):

    "Last Wednesday, you pointed out at Vital Conversations that Rafael Cruz thinks the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will lead us down the road to Communism because it makes people dependent on the government. His belief is essentially ridiculous.

    "First, the ACA does not directly affect 85% of the population which is already covered. Second, the remaining 15% will be buying their health insurance from private insurance companies through exchanges, which is actually a free market mechanism because it puts transparency into the insurance purchasing process.

    "Some of the 15% will have their premiums subsidized and it is true that those on Medicaid do not pay for health insurance, but Communism?

    "Since the ACA was modeled on "Romneycare" in Massachusetts, which was developed in 1993 by the conservative Heritage Foundation as an alternative to "Hillarycare."

    "I can only conclude that the intense opposition to the ACA must be motivated to some extent by racism."

    1. Thanks, Eric, for your substantial comments!

  7. Here is more from Thinking Friend Eric Dollard"

    "It is interesting to note that life expectancy in Cuba under the Castros went from 63 years in 1955 to 78 years (76 for males and 80 for females) in 2007. In the U S, life expectancy went from 69 years to 78 years (76.4 male and 81.1 female). Infant mortality in Cuba went from 32 per 1,000 births in 1957 to 4.9 per 1,000 in 2011.

    "The infant mortality rate in the U S in 2011 was 6.1 per 1,000 births. (These figures are from the Encyclopedia Britannica 2013 Yearbook.)

    "Although no rational Westerner has any desire to live in Cuba, there is still little doubt that the U S has the most inefficient healthcare system in the industrialized world (measured as a percentage of GDP spent on healthcare against actual outcomes).

    "Coupled with the most inefficient educational and tax systems in the industrialized world, a crumbling infrastructure with endless war, and a dysfunctional political process to boot, we are headed for a bleak future (Communism not required).

  8. Eric, these statistics are very interesting in light of Rafael Cruz's statements criticizing Obamacare. He emphasized how bad things are in Cuba and how the U.S. is in danger of becoming more like Cuba under President Obama.

    1. Very interesting exchange with Eric. I am reminded of Michael Moore's "Sicko."