David Brooks is troubled by Cruz's lack of mercy

Yesterday I wrote that Ted Cruz may have a clear path to the Republican presidential nomination if he consolidates the rural, evangelical vote while the more urban and secular vote splits between Donald Trump and an establishment candidate. Today, New York Times columnist David Brooks—a pretty good representative of the GOP establishment—writes, perhaps with wishful thinking, that Mr. Cruz’s “brutal, fear-driven, apocalypse-based approach” may not wear well with religious voters. In particular, he cites Mr. Cruz’s bellicose rhetoric on foreign policy. And his draconian views on criminal justice (as Texas solicitor general, he fought to keep someone in prison whose lengthy sentence was the result of prosecutors had incorrectly applying a habitual offender law).

It’s possible that what Mr. Brooks calls the “pagan brutalism” of Mr. Cruz will alienate some evangelical voters, but the Republican campaign so far doesn’t suggest so. Another candidate, Ohio Governor John Kasich, has never recovered from his invocation of St. Peter to justify expanding Medicaid in his state. (“He’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”) Jeb Bush has been mocked for his moment of empathy in 2014, when he said that many who illegally immigrate to the United States do so out of an “act of love” for their families.

Advertisement

Mr. Brooks writes, “The best conservatism balances support for free markets with a Judeo-Christian spirit of charity, compassion and solidarity.” But he doesn’t address the widespread belief that the government is not a proper mechanism for acting with charity or compassion. If Mr. Cruz does well with religious voters, it may be because they believe government needs to get out of the way and let individuals and private charities do good works. This belief is highlighted in the just-released Almanac of American Philanthropy (see last week’s post), which takes the stand that government is not complementary, but instead antithetical to charitable efforts.

Distrust of the federal government is high across the political spectrum, so it wouldn’t be surprising for Republican primary voters to overlook Mr. Cruz’s sparse references to our obligations to the less fortunate. What does the president have to do with something that should be the province of churches, private charities and perhaps local government? Cruz supporters may answer Mr. Kasich in a similar fashion as The Federalist’s Sean Davis, who wrote that the Ohio governor “doesn’t practice what he preaches,” based on the small amount of charitable donations reported on his tax return. “He authors his own heavenly fan fiction,” writes Davis, “complete with an implied scene in which he brilliantly passes St. Peter’s works test while all his antagonists fail. Kasich does not preach compassion; he preaches a false gospel of redemption through political activism.”

Evangelical and other religious voters may look at government with too much suspicion to blame Mr. Cruz for stingy social spending. Government social-welfare programs, after all, are largely without judgment. They cannot promote Christian values, and most cannot penalize behavior (abortion, promiscuity, homosexuality, irreverence toward God or country, etc.) that many voters find morally offensive.

Certainly, a large number of religious voters still see programs like Medicaid as helping the common good, and Mr. Cruz may strike them as callous. I am not so sure that enough of them will vote in Republican primaries to stop Ted Cruz and cure David Brooks’s headaches.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
2 years ago
I am not a fan of Trump or Cruz but would vote for them in a general election against a Democrat. I saw a poll last night that surprised me. It was who you would not vote for amongst Republicans. Trump and Bush led the poll with about 26% of poll saying they would not vote for either of them. The surprising thing was that Cruz had the lowest number of all the Republicans followed by Rubio. Which means he is the least objectionable amongst Republicans. So maybe the premise of this OP is way off. In a national contest Cruz currently beats Clinton but the way things are going now, she may not be around at the end. Even with a rough time in Iowa and New Hampshire, the southern states should be more conducive for her nomination. Biden and Kerry are waiting for her to fall though.
New York Times columnist David Brooks is troubled by the Texas senator's "pagan brutalism."
Most Republicans are troubled by David Brooks.
Michael Kelly
2 years ago
Mr. Sullivan: David Brooks’ account of the habitual offender case Ted Crux argued in the Supreme Court as Solicitor General of Texas was dishonest. See “Brooks Borks Cruz - A deceptive attack on the former solicitor general”, James Taranto, WSJ, 1/12/16 http://www.wsj.com/articles/brooks-borks-cruz-1452628864?cb=logged0.10466465696076754 The case gave rise to substantial questions of law pertaining to habeas corpus and liberal Justices Breyer and Ginsberg among others agreed with Cruz’s argument. As Mr. Taranto observed: “… Brooks’s treatment of this case is either deliberately deceptive or recklessly ignorant. It may raise questions of character, but not Ted Cruz’s.” You may wish to continue to extol Brooks as a commentator despite I look forward to your retraction of your claim that the case demonstrated that Cruz has a “draconian views on criminal justice”.
Jason Songe
2 years ago
i couldn't continue reading this article because it was written poorly. example: "he fought to keep someone in prison whose lengthy sentence was the result of prosecutors had incorrectly applying a habitual offender law"
J Cabaniss
2 years ago
If one is a Ted Cruz fan this article should be taken as a good sign: it means he is being taken seriously enough that his opponents find it necessary to make the effort to damage his support. We should expect more such attacks. Not so much on his policies of course as on him personally. I'm sure we'll hear more about his "pagan brutalism" in the future.
J Cosgrove
2 years ago
An article that appeared yesterday about this http://bit.ly/1lezP70 Does David Brooks' crusade against Ted Cruz say more about himself than it does about Ted Cruz? Do Mr. Sullivan's articles say more about himself than they do about what he writes about? Maybe Mr. Sullivan may want to rewrite his OP to reflect reality.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla clash with military police in the Policarpo Paz Garcia neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Jan. 20, 2018. Following a disputed election marred by irregularities, incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the victor and will be inaugurated on Jan. 27. The opposition does not recognize Hernandez's victory and are protesting against the result. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)
“You will see many protests during his mandate...because Honduras hasn’t fixed its age-old problems of inequality, exclusion, poor educational and health system, corruption and impunity.”
Melissa VidaJanuary 23, 2018
I want to be able to serve the state better. I want to be able to serve more of the state.
Nathan SchneiderJanuary 23, 2018
Formed in 2011, The Oh Hellos' Christianity is one of their foundational inspirations, evident in lines like "the only God I should have loved."
Colleen DulleJanuary 23, 2018
People gather at a June 14 candlelight vigil in Manila, Philippines, in memory of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Philippine Catholic bishops called for vigilance against bullying, ostracism and harassment of gay people in the wake of the incident in which police said a lone gunman killed 49 people early June 12 at the club. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)
“We are losing three generations of people, and we need to hear why,” said Bishop Mark O’Connell.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 23, 2018