With the announcement of Ted Cruz’s candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination and his speech at the convocation of the ultra-conservative Liberty University, the country finds itself jilted to the right on the ideological spectrum. Ted Cruz is quite the curious ideological torchbearer precisely because he is Latino.
The general assumption in politics is that growing Hispanic Latino participation in politics will only mean an ideological shift to the left. This makes Ted Cruz’ candidacy a welcome reminder that Latino candidates won’t, for good or bad, necessarily stray from traditional American politics any time soon.
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The son of Cuban immigrants and born in Canada, Ted Cruz is a marked contrast to recent Christian-based candidates such as Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. This time, the Christian conservative standard bearer not only comes with intellectual heft, a graduate of Princeton and Harvard, but from a foreign country.
Mr. Cruz is a throwback to Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority evangelical movement, which began in the 1970’s, but grew in earnest in the 1990’s. Mr. Falwell founded Liberty University, and Cruz’ sermon on Falwell’s mount was a call to arms for evangelicals across the country.
A recasting of the once hopeful political kingmaker Ralph Reed, Cruz's new Christian Coalition marks a second great awakening of sorts and is a repackaging of the old vision of Christian politicos that hit its zenith with Pat Buchanan’s famous “culture war speech” at the 1992 RNC Convention.
In his speech, Buchanan warned the country about the changing role of women in society - Hillary Clinton was already an effective target for the evangelical right - and he warned of the erosion of society through the country’s embrace of what he called “the most pro-lesbian and pro-gay ticket in history,” referring to the Bill Clinton and Al Gore ticket. Pat Buchanan stood at the podium and declared , “there is a religious war going on in this country... a war for the soul of America”.
Ted Cruz - a Cuban American born in Canada - is an ironic choice to carry the torch of previous religious conservatives. Mr. Buchanan’s failure as a candidate dragged him further into the depths of nativism throughout the rest of the 1990s and the 2000s. His influence swayed a fearful Pete Wilson to adopt the now infamous anti-immigrant Proposition 187 movement in California in 1994 on his way to the governorship. The “Save our State” initiative held a strong grip on the anxiety of the country from the right that the shift in immigration from Europe to third world countries, such as Latin America, would destroy our nation.
Buchanan wrote as much in his book, The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization. In his follow-up book, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion And the Conquest Of America, Buchanan called Hispanics a “tangle of squabbling nationalities”, where European ancestors were destined for destruction in a cesspool of Latino cultural unsophistication.
Fast forward and we are now faced with an ultra-conservative Latino with degrees from two of the most sophisticated universities in the world. Conservatives should not have been worried about Hispanics, Latinos are happily ensconced in our American political system.