Election 2016

Dear Ted Cruz: Even David Brooks Hates You

The New York Times conservative columnist suggests the GOP candidate is anything but kindhearted.

Ted Cruz has been gaining on Donald Trump in recent weeks, closing the gap between the two among likely GOP voters. While the numbers show support for Cruz is building, there’s one conservative whose vote he doesn’t have and is unlikely to gain—PBS talking head and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

In his latest op-ed, Brooks took Cruz to task for what he calls the candidate’s “pagan brutalism,” which he says leaves the candidate empty of “compassion, gentleness and mercy.” Brooks cites the case of Michael Wayne Haley, a Texas man who in 1997 was sent to jail for stealing a calculator. Due to prosecutor error, what should have earned Haley two years maximum behind bars resulted in a prison sentence of an astounding 16 years. When the mistake was discovered, then-Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz actually fought to keep Haley imprisoned, going as high as the U.S. Supreme Court. Haley was ultimately released after serving six years, but in that anecdote, Brooks finds troubling indications about Cruz’s personality.

Brooks notes a marked incongruity between Cruz’s appeals to evangelical voters, with whom he’s gaining a foothold, and his so-called dedication to Christian virtues. “[Cruz’s] speeches are marked by a long list of enemies, and vows to crush, shred, destroy, bomb them,” Brooks writes. “When he is speaking in a church the contrast between the setting and the emotional tone he sets is jarring.”

He suggests the candidate is creating an “atmosphere of apocalyptic fear,” making hyperbolic pronouncements that seem like doomsday forecasts. Brooks quotes Cruz's statement that America is in danger of toppling off the “cliff to oblivion.” He also points to a Cruz quote following a Democratic debate about how “[w]e’re seeing our freedoms taken away every day, and last night was an audition for who would wear the jackboot most vigorously.”

Brooks believes this tone, thanks to its success with some Republican voters, is being picked up by other candidates. "Ted Cruz is making headway. There's...you begin to see little signs of liftoff,” Brooks said, according to Politico. “Trump has sort of ceiling-ed out. Carson is collapsing. And Cruz is somehow beginning to get some momentum from Iowa and elsewhere. And so people are either mimicking him, which Rubio is doing a little by adopting some of the dark and satanic tones that Cruz has."

Brooks suggests in his column that evangelical voters would do well to look more closely at Cruz’s rhetoric before deciding to support him, since it runs counter to much of what they believe. “Evangelicals and other conservatives have had their best influence on American politics when they have proceeded in a spirit of personalism,” Brooks writes, “when they have answered hostility with service and emphasized the infinite dignity of each person. They have won elections as happy and hopeful warriors. Ted Cruz’s brutal, fear-driven, apocalypse-based approach is the antithesis of that.”

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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