National Journal: Cruz is More Dangerous Than Trump

This article first appeared in National Journal.

Most Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates for the U.S. pres­id­ency this elec­tion cycle are rush­ing to po­s­i­tion them­selves as the anti-Don­ald Trump, es­pe­cially after his re­cently pro­posed plan to tem­por­ar­ily block all Muslims from en­ter­ing the United States.

“You know how you can ‘Make Amer­ica Great Again’?” asked South Car­o­lina Sen­at­or Lind­say Gra­ham, cit­ing Trump’s in­fam­ous cam­paign slo­gan. “Tell Don­ald Trump to go to hell.”

“Don­ald Trump is un­hinged,” tweeted Flor­ida Gov­ernor Jeb Bush. “His ‘policy’ pro­pos­als are not ser­i­ous.”

Texas Sen­at­or Ted Cruz is opt­ing for an al­tern­at­ive route. Rather than re­pu­di­ate his rival, Cruz is in­stead aim­ing to be seen as a “toned-down Trump,” ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg Polit­ics’ Kev­in Cir­illi, who spoke with a num­ber of the con­ser­vat­ive’s fans in Iowa on Decem­ber 9. So far, it seems to be work­ing. Trump’s re­cent com­ments make “Sen­at­or Cruz seem much more sane,” said one Iowa voter; “Cruz is like Trump, but at a toned-down level,” said an­oth­er.

It’s clear Cruz’s camp is walk­ing a fine line. Trump’s sup­port­ers have so far iden­ti­fied with a man both volat­ile and un­pre­dict­able, so straight-edge and sol­emn is un­likely to si­phon off much of his base. Cruz must there­fore present him­self as a can­did­ate who is sens­ible, but not too sens­ible.

Cruz isn’t merely a toned-down version of Trump. He’s just as conservative and just as volatile, though probably a little less erratic. The thing is, Cruz isn’t merely a toned-down ver­sion of Trump. He’s just as con­ser­vat­ive, just as volat­ile, though prob­ably a little less er­rat­ic. And this makes him all the more dan­ger­ous, from a pro­gress­ive point of view.

Re­cently sur­faced raw foot­age taped by Cruz’s team for use in su­per PAC cam­paign ads shows a man pos­ing for the cam­er­as, con­triv­ing mo­ments of whole­some fam­ily-to­geth­er­ness for his “tra­di­tion­al-val­ues” bloc of po­ten­tial voters. Where­as Trump bubbles and ex­plodes with off-the-cuff blovi­ations, charm­ing sup­port­ers with out­rageous mo­ments of “did-he-ac­tu­ally-say-that!?” Cruz is pur­pose­ful and pa­tient. He’s a cal­cu­lat­or and a ma­nip­u­lat­or, and though he’s not a par­tic­u­larly gif­ted act­or, he knows how to play the polit­ic­al role he has picked out for him­self—with aplomb.

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