21 February 2016

Ted Cruz Lost My Christian Vote. Here's Why:

I'm watching some commentators ask why Ted Cruz did poorly among Evangelicals in SC after campaigning so vigorously for that demographic.

I can only speak for myself here but it comes to this:
I don't believe he's sincere.

To be clear "sincere Christian" is not a prerequisite for my vote, but "not a hypocrite" probably is. In the last several weeks, especially since NH, Cruz has appeared to me as though he's pandering to the church. That word, pandering, gets thrown about a lot but mostly it's being used as hyperbole. "Selling it" is not the same as pandering. Knowing your audience and speaking their lingo is not pandering. But what Cruz has been doing feels like the real deal and to be honest it's my only first-hand experience with being pandered to (or at least being aware of it) and it kinda makes my stomach turn...but that may just be me.

I also feel as though he crossed a rather bright line with the "Ben Carson just dropped out so vote for me" episode. That really torpedoed his credibility with me but - give the guy a chance to explain - and then he just doubled down instead of owning/repenting for it which sealed the deal.

So, as I see it, Cruz has revealed a kind of moral flexibility that makes his appeal to the church not just hollow, but manipulative. Even if I looked at it from some kind of "the ends justify the means" perspective...that kind of worldview is inconsistent with my own.

I'm a Christian, Cruz has been actively trying to get my vote, and he specifically lost it.
I wrote the part above as a Facebook post but I had a few trailing thoughts on the matter that I wanted to lay out here where the format works better for longer ideas.

I think I'd like to start by saying there is a lot about Ted Cruz that I can admire and get behind. His view of the Constitution, his view on many issues that are important to me, and his willingness to stand up and be counted on the Senate floor. He's been an interesting and encouraging person to watch these last several years. I find it a point in his favor that Robert Reich thinks he's the most dangerous Right-leaning candidate in the bunch, including Trump. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W5e7AwqksU) He also holds some degree of "outsider" cred though to be fair it's hard to say that cleanly seeing how he's a senator. These are all marks in his favor as far as I'm concerned and I've been watching him fairly closely since the campaign started up.

The difficulty started when Cruz decided to start beating the Christian drum really, really loud. It's a popular truism in Christian leadership that these folks will be, and should be, held to a higher standard of conduct and Cruz was willing to take up that burden. We also use the term "above reproach" to indicate an effort to avoiding even the "appearance of evil." To be fair it's a very difficult standard to live up to in private life, to say nothing for the rigors of a public life. It was courageous... maybe... but it was also the seed of what went sideways in my opinion.

In the last several weeks there were a series of things that made look...hungry, and not in a good way. He was trying too hard, he was pushing and it felt forced. And then the accusations from all around the trail were that the Cruz's campaign was just flat out lying. I'm not an idiot - I know that people say that kind of thing all the time and, sadly, I've come to expect that politicians play fast and loose with the facts as a matter of course. But this was different in that it was consistent across the board and it found a place in my heart where it seemed accurate.

Now a good friend of mine who's a Cruz supporter responded, in part, to the Facebook post (in a very respectful and articulate manner) with how other candidates were doing the same kinds of things. But I fear that's exactly the wrong answer because Cruz himself invited all of us to judge him by a higher standard. He asked us to judge him according to a different set of rules and in that light he wasn't looking so good. I could go through the drama and go over the stories and the links and the timelines but that would be in an effort to back up something that in reality happened in my heart. It was something I felt first and foremost and the stories only came in later to provide corroborating evidence. Somewhere in there I saw Cruz on a video and my heart said "He's lying." It wasn't anything in particular that he said, it wasn't some fact that I knew to be wrong, it wasn't anything I just didn't want to hear and I called that lying. It was just something I felt, in my heart, and that was a bad feeling.


People lie - all people. We stretch the truth, we leave out details, we exaggerate. Sometimes we do it to protect ourselves, sometimes to protect others. We lie to hide, we lie to make a point, we sometimes lie because the words are out our moths before we even know what we said. I say this point out that I'm not some kind of dogmatic, naive child who is unwilling to deal with the reality of a fallen human nature just waiting to pounce on any and every infraction.

When I felt that twinge in my heart it's not as if I suddenly gave up on the man or cast everything good out with the bad. I'm willing and able to accept mistakes, even big ones because to do otherwise would be foolish. But when he was, for lack of a better word, caught - I wanted him to own it.
But he didn't.
And that was when I went over the tipping point.

This has already gone longer than I intended and so I'll wrap it up with this thought: All said and done it's not too late for Cruz to turn this around for me. As a matter of fact, the day after my post Cruz fired a top aide, Rick Tyler, for exactly this kind of thing. (http://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/breaking-news-cruz-asks-for-national-spokesman-rick-tylers-resignation-219632) and I find this actually rather encouraging. I reckon we wont know if Mr. Perry was a symptom or a cause until we get a little space but as a gesture toward accountability ti feels meaningful.

With that I'll sign off and say that this election has made me wrestle more with my thoughts, hopes and convictions more than any I've ever seen.

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