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Vail Daily column: Is Cruz Reagan’s reincarnation?

Jack Van Ens

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz identifies himself as “Ronald Reagan reborn.” His political record takes dark turns, however, compared to Reagan’s sunny presidential track record.

Cruz, who honed legal skills as Princeton University’s debate champion before attending Harvard Law School and clerking at the Supreme Court, takes pride in not wavering from prior legal decisions. Like barnacles on a boat’s hull, Cruz sticks to his biases. He’s opinionated rather than open to others’ opinions.

In contrast, Reagan showed flexibility. Although he believed lowering taxes led to an economic boom (1983-1990), he felt comfortable switching fiscal stances. Reagan moderated an anti-tax pledge when his constituency benefited from more helpful policies. As governor of California, he raised taxes. To sustain a strong economy, President Reagan hiked the national debt ceiling.



Cruz rejects both policies. He sounds argumentative, brittle and attached to yesterday’s solutions for today’s challenges.

“At some point along the way, it became fashionable in the Republican Party — in some quarters anyway —to replace reason with rage, to deny science when it is at odds with ideology and to cheer mindless stunts like shutting down the federal government rather than responsibly managing and re-limiting it,” admits Peter Wehner, GOP strategist for President George W. Bush, after Cruz’s grandstanding in the Senate (Time Magazine, “The Party’s Over,” March 21).



Unlike Cruz, Reagan respected Democrats. His talk against their ill-conceived policies never sunk into a cesspool of name-calling. President Reagan didn’t throw those with whom he disagreed under the bus.

He compromised and often cut losses by striking deals in which neither party got all it demanded. He believed the Constitution resulted from a series of accommodations representatives made at the 1787 Constitutional Convention. They argued. They fought. Then they bargained.

Cruz disdains dulling his sharp arguments’ edges. With a dogmatic, over-bearing manner, he defends ideological ideals rather than promoting what’s possible in Congress. Cruz’s harsh look matches his combative speech. He’d benefit from learning how courtesy rather than curtness wins-over those who differ.



David Brooks, NPR commentator and member of the GOP’s think-tank, believes Cruz’s toxic speech poisons political discourse.

“… Cruz’s speeches are marked by what you might call pagan brutalism. There is not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy,” laments Brooks. “Instead, his speeches are marked by a long list of enemies and vows to crush, shred, destroy and bomb them.”

The Apostle Paul urges Christians to bolster whomever they met by “sharing in our comfort” (II Corinthians 1:7). Cruz castigates enemies, instead.

Brooks abhors such taunting. “… Cruz manufactures an atmosphere of menace in which there is no room for compassion, for moderation, for anything but dismantling and counterattack. And that is what he offers,” Brooks writes. “Cruz’s programmatic agenda, to the extent that it exists in his speeches, is to destroy things: destroy the I..S., crush the ‘jackals’ of the EPA, end funding for Planned Parenthood, reverse Obama’s executive orders, make the desert glow in Syria, destroy the Iran nuclear accord” (The New York Times, “The Brutalism of Ted Cruz,” Jan. 12).

Such bullying would make Ronald Reagan wince. Always a gentleman, he didn’t stoop to this low verbal level.

Cruz and Reagan agree on misguided fiscal policy to drive a strong economy. Economists dub it supply-side economics, which Republicans shorten to “Reaganomics.” Debunkers call it the trickle-down theory of prosperity that evaporates.

Reagan believed lower taxes, plus forming enterprise zones that gave steep tax breaks to business innovators, would create new jobs. The U.S. economy did boom during Reagan’s presidency. But his fiscal policy looked better than it performed because Reagan increased the national debt three-fold. He and his rich Southern California friends pocketed record profits. This money made the already-wealthy richer.

Supply-side economics was supposed to kick into gear during George W. Bush’s presidency. He promised all citizens would profit from lower taxes. Again, wealth increased among the already-rich. Then the 2008 Great Recession struck.

Brooks castigates Cruz’s insistence on trying Reaganomics one more time. He believes such out-of-fashion policy is like using kerosene lanterns to light our homes. Such an energy source worked in the past but fails to meet 21st-century needs.

“For decades now, the Republican Party has been groaning under the Reagan orthodoxy, which was right for the 1980s but has become increasingly obsolete,” Brooks declares. “The Reagan worldview was based on the idea that a rising economic tide would lift all boats. But that is clearly not true” (The New York Times, “The Post-Trump Era,” March 25).

Reaganomics benefits the rich. Flat wages keep lower and middle-class Americans from an economic boost. Cruz repeats Reagan’s fiscal misfires rather than correcting these failed policies.

The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.

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