Trump and Cruz: Two Sides of a Bad Penny

The following observations are my opinion, though the information is based on verifiable facts about the candidates. I’m not a political analyst, but I am a person of faith, an informed voter and a concerned citizen.

At the time I write this, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the frontrunners in the GOP primary campaign. To me, these men represent what’s wrong with the Republican Party today, but not for the same reason. Both promote an agenda I find appalling, but they come at their positions from different perspectives...neither of which I feel would be good for our country.

The rhetoric of both men is extreme.
One stupefies me; the other scares me.

Donald Trump is a rich megalomaniac who adores attention. I don’t believe he has anyone’s interests in mind other than his own. He will say and do whatever it takes to put the spotlight on The Donald. He's a carnival showman.

Trump is privileged and out of touch with the life (problems, challenges, etc.) of the average person. From his rhetoric, he is sexist, misogynistic, racist, militaristic and xenophobic. What some praise as business acumen is little more than bully tactics, such as making fun of disabled people or condoning violence against his dissenters. Just this week, he told his supporters at a rally to "knock the crap out of" protesters. If the “negotiating skills” we’ve witnessed on the campaign trail are any indication (name calling, Twitter wars, petulant behavior), international relations would be jeopardized.

I think what he says has been strategically crafted to appeal to the fears and ignorance of a specific demographic of our population, predominately middle-aged heterosexual white males. His words are for shock value. It's been proven that he lies frequently, but refuses to recant.

Sadly, his campaign message has revealed some serious issues in our country; we are deeply divided by many factors—race, religion, status, gender and sexual orientation. We are suspicious and antagonistic of those who are not “like us,” and we only want “our kind” making policy.

But Trump has no real, workable solutions to these problems. A wall between America and Mexico? Forbidding all Muslims from entering the country? Registering all Muslims? Requiring everyone to say “Merry Christmas?”
These campaign promises only reinforce our differences and perpetuate prejudice!
(And they're impossible to actually implement, without martial law!)

His mass support within the Conservative Evangelical community baffles me, but it has also served to reveal a dark underbelly of that population as well: it’s not about the love of God, or the Good News, but about exclusion, and violence, and fear.

Before his campaign, Trump would have been that guy conservative pastors pointed to in sermons: “Don’t be like him!” He is a thrice-married, serial adulterer and made millions running casinos. But now he’s adopted a Christian persona, and saying all the things they want to hear. He assures us he’s a “good person.” He talks vaguely about how much he admires the Bible as one of his two favorite books. (His own book is a close second.) When pressed though, he’s never able to actually offer scriptural specifics and has shown repeated biblical illiteracy. He tells Christians that when he’s President, things will be good for them; he’s promising to only appoint Supreme Court justices who will reverse Marriage Equality. He confesses to be “more humble” that most people, but admits he won’t ask for forgiveness. 

In what universe would the average Fundamentalist support this man?
Now they not only support him, their leaders are publicly endorsing him.

And then we have Ted Cruz, who has much the same message as Trump and would include some of the same audience as well—conservative Christians. As far as policy, they could be two sides of the same coin. (The title of this entry comes from that phrase, combined with one my grandmother used to say: “A bad penny always turns up.”) Cruz preaches “values” such as marriage between one man and one woman, strict immigration, no gun control, military might, reduced aids to the less fortunate, etc.

However, as much as the idea of Trump as President concerns me, Ted Cruz terrifies me.
Trump is a religious interloper, but Cruz is a Fundamentalist insider. Cruz is running for President because he sincerely believes God called him to run. Cruz’s father, a Pastor, calls him “anointed” for the office. (Are we electing a President, or hiring a Pastor?)

If you study his theology, he’s a theocrat and a “dominionist;” they believe God wants Christians in have charge over all governing bodies—taken by force, if necessary. Recently Cruz confessed that he is a Christian first, and an American second. He’s made it clear that the laws of the our nation should never override or contradict the truths of the Bible. (Or more precisely, his understanding of those truths.) Ted’s “gospel” is one of imposing a powerful, angry God on everyone, with weapons and war if necessary. Cruz makes his followers afraid of Islamic Sharia Law, but apparently would have not qualms about imposing a Christian version. He spoke at a rally hosted by a Pastor who advocates killing all homosexuals. At a recent campaign event, one of Cruz's celebrity supporters (Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson) issued a call to "rid the earth" of all who supported marriage equality, and called gay people "evil" and "wicked." Cruz apparently favors restricting religious liberties of non-Christians, or those who didn’t align with his understanding of a Christian. Any disagreement with his beliefs is presented as religious persecution. 

It does appear Trump will get the GOP nomination, though some polls have Cruz very close; a few experts think there will be a Cruz upset. (Update: that was the case in yesterday's Iowa Caucus, which is rarely an accurate indicator.) I find both of these men problematic. I think neither represent what’s best for our country, nor hold the ideals of our founders, particularly justice, equality and respect for all Americans. I certainly don’t believe either of them represent the actual attitudes, ethics and principles espoused by the historic Christian faith or Jesus, the founder of our faith, specifically compassion to “the least of these.”

I'm not asking my Republican friends to switch parties (that's not the purpose of this entry), but I am asking: Is this the best your Party has to offer? 

Trump is disingenuous, but to me, Cruz is more dangerous!
I’m suspicious of Trump because he’s a pathological liar. In office, he would be a laughable, ever-shifting political opportunist.
I’m terrified of Cruz because he believes he’s on a Mission from God. That makes for an unpredictable, uncontrollable despot.

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.” 
~ Blaise Pascal (Mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher)

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep…but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” 
~ C.S. Lewis (Christian apologist,  lay theologian, writer)

Personal Note/Disclaimer: In case there’s any confusion, I am not a Republican, though I used to be. But the GOP of today hold no semblance to the principles and values I once embraced. While I will contend some of that is due to the extremist shift in the past few decades, I also take responsibility for my departure. My personal values and priorities have changed over time; I’m not sure the “me” of today would align with the party back then either.