Conservatism is concerned with conserving (keeping or preserving) something; it shares the same root as conservation. The question, then, is what is the something that a conservative is trying to conserve?
Today’s American conservative movement is a hodgepodge largely of mercantilist racial nationalism and religious fundamentalism, as manifest in the political marriage of Donald Trump and Mike Pence and their supporters. But conservatism has taken many forms. Conservatism at its best looks to the Enlightenment principles of America’s founding—but then it is not, as I point out, fundamentally conservative. Continue reading “What’s Wrong with Conservatism”
If you asked most Progressives and most supporters of Donald Trump, they’d tell you that members of the two camps are diametric opposites. That’s why Progressives are protesting Trump’s presidency, right? But the reality is that Trump’s economic policies share fundamental assumptions with Progressivism.
Perhaps the most important thing Ted Cruz has done this political season is to solidify in many people’s minds the supposed link between capitalism and religion. This is important—and bad—because, logically, capitalism is based not on religious faith, but on secular reason. By trying to defend free-market capitalism on religious grounds, Cruz and his fellow evangelical Republicans discredit capitalism in the minds of many (otherwise) pro-reason secularists. Continue reading “Republican Religion Undermines Capitalism”
A major part of Cruz’s political strategy is to ally himself with evangelical leaders and voters—including the outright theocrats Troy Newman and Kevin Swanson. Anyone who takes seriously Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state” must condemn Cruz for these tactics and alliances.
As a free-market secularist, I see Ted Cruz, politically, as a split personality. On one hand (to list a few examples), he speaks eloquently for freedom of political speech,1 he opposes politically controlled health care (at least as manifest in ObamaCare),2 and he used his tenure with the Federal Trade Commission to move that agency in a direction less hostile to free markets.3 On the other hand, he makes religion a centerpiece of his politics; for example, for religious reasons he advocates various restrictions on abortion (although he has been remarkably cagey about how far he’d prefer to go with such restrictions).4 [Update: See my December 4 article about Cruz’s support for abortion bans.]
What most worries me about Ted Cruz as a presidential candidate are not those explicit elements of his platform that clash with the principles of liberty, but his open pandering to evangelical voters, even to outright theocrats. This matters, not only because Cruz will be beholden to the voters who elect him (if he wins), but because Cruz is actively supporting and helping to organize a religious-conservative movement likely to play a major role in American politics for many years. To those who, like me, worry that the Republican Party began to slide toward faith-centered politics many years ago, Cruz’s acceleration of that trend is frightening.
From the beginning, a centerpiece of Cruz’s strategy has been to win evangelicals to his side. In March, Cruz delivered his campaign announcement at Liberty University, a Christian institution (which, incidentally, features the “Center for Creation Studies” that promotes a “young-earth creationist view”).5 During his faith-heavy remarks, Cruz said, “Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting. They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”6 This is a theme that Cruz has emphasized repeatedly.7
The fact that Cruz is so actively and thoroughly tying his campaign to the evangelical movement is by itself alarming. Cruz’s campaign has (as examples) issued news releases announcing the formation of a “national prayer team” and bragging that Cruz’s “Faith Leadership Team [includes] more than 200 faith leaders from around the nation.”8 When it comes time for Cruz (should he win) to nominate Supreme Court justices (among other things), it’s pretty clear where his loyalties will lie.
But Cruz has done far more than ally himself with mainstream evangelical voters; he has openly pandered to outright theocrats. Anyone who thinks my use of the term theocrat is hyperbolic or exaggerated is welcome to try to explain how treating abortion legally as murder, from the moment of conception, as many of Cruz’s allies wish to do, or arguing that states justifiably execute homosexuals or abortion providers at least in some circumstances, as at least two of Cruz’s allies do, is not theocratic in nature.
I must pause to distinguish my approach here from that of leftist provocateurs. (I consider myself to be on the political right, as Craig Biddle defines it, which I consider to be the natural home of rational secularists of the broadly Enlightenment tradition.)9 I am well aware of the Saul Alinsky-inspired techniques of character assassination10—indeed, I and my friends have at times been the targets of such attacks. My criticisms here include rather than exclude the relevant context, and I blame people only for what they have demonstrably said or done. I do not blame Cruz for the remarks that his allies make; I blame him only for actively allying himself, in the context of a presidential campaign, with people who express frankly horrific views. It is intellectually dishonest of leftists to make spurious character attacks on their opponents—and it is also intellectually dishonest of conservatives to rationalize away well-grounded criticisms of a conservative. Hopefully readers can bear that in mind as we proceed.
Troy Newman on “Bloodguilt”
First consider the case of Troy Newman. On November 19, Cruz’s campaign issued a news release bragging that Cruz picked up Newman’s endorsement. The release states:
Today, Presidential candidate Ted Cruz secured the endorsement of leading pro-life activist Troy Newman—a driving force in the recent effort to expose Planned Parenthood’s alleged sale of baby parts in a series of undercover videos. Newman is the President of Operation Rescue, one of the most prominent pro-life Christian activist organizations in the nation. . . .
“I am grateful to receive the endorsement of Troy Newman,” Cruz said. “He has served as a voice for the unborn for over 25 years, and works tirelessly every day for the pro-life cause. We need leaders like Troy Newman in this country who will stand up for those who do not have a voice.”11
Remember, then, that Cruz and Newman are not connected merely in some casual way; Newman has openly expressed his support for Cruz’s presidential bid, and Cruz has publicly welcomed that support and touted his political alliance with Newman.
So what does Troy Newman advocate? Consider some of Newman’s views as expressed in his book Their Blood Cries Out, which he coauthored with Cheryl Sullenger. That book states (among many other bizarre things): “[T]he United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty. This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt from the land and people.”12
Newman claims that this passage has been taken out of context. So what is the context? Here is how Newman’s own organization, Operation Rescue, explains it:
In that book, which was a theological study of the Biblical doctrine of bloodguilt, Newman and Sullenger discuss the Old Testament principle that required those who commit murder should be sentenced to death by a court of justice. They surmised that if indeed abortion is murder, then it would be acceptable, based on the Old Testament teachings, for governments to treat it as it does any other murder with those convicted through a court of law subject to the same punishments other murderers would face, including capital punishment.
Yet, not surprisingly, [Terri] Butler [an Australian critic] neglected to mention that later chapters in that now out of print book referenced the New Testament concept that mercy is preferable to judgement, and that repentance and restoration is available through Jesus Christ to all men who seek it.13
Notice that this is the explanation that’s supposed to make us feel comfortable with Newman’s remarks and persuade us that Newman is a perfectly reasonable fellow.
So is Newman’s organization claiming that state executions of abortion providers was justified only in Old Testament times, and that, today, “mercy” always should push aside “judgment”? No, it is not. Newman leaves open the possibility that “Old Testament teachings” might still be relevant for modern governments—and his book explicitly mentions the United States in the context of a government that may properly execute abortion providers.
The same release quotes Newman’s coauthor Sullenger, now Senior Vice President of Operation Rescue (under Newman): “There is a distinct difference between saying that the Bible gives the authority to governments to execute justice, as we explained in the book, and advocating that individuals commit murder of abortion providers.” Yes, there is a distinct difference. Newman and Sullenger advocate only state executions of abortion providers, not vigilante executions. So helpful of her to clear that up.
Incidentally, Sullenger herself did not always so keenly recognize the distinction between state-sanctioned violence and individual violence. The same Operation Rescue statement discusses “Cheryl Sullenger’s conviction in 1988 of conspiring to bomb an abortion facility in San Diego, California the previous year.” She “expressed remorse” for her actions, and she now works “within peaceful and legal means” to ban all abortion from the moment of conception and to empower government to execute abortion providers.
The same statement by Operation Rescue explains Newman’s earlier remarks about the Reverend Paul Jennings Hill, who murdered an abortion provider and his bodyguard in 1994 and who was subsequently executed for the crime.
At the time, Newman stated, “A Florida judge denied Rev. Hill his right to present a defense that claimed that the killing of the abortionist was necessary to save the lives of the pre-born babies that were scheduled to be killed by abortion that day.”
That was a perfectly reasonable position for Newman to take, Newman’s Operation Rescue assures us:
This statement has been frequently misinterpreted as “evidence” of Newman’s support for the position that murdering abortion providers is justifiable homicide. That is a gross mischaracterization of his statement.
Newman deplored the fact that Hill had murdered two people, but felt the need to express disappointment that the court refused to allow Hill to use the defense of his choosing. . . .
Do you see the distinction? Newman was not claiming that Rev. Hill’s execution of two people constituted “justifiable homicide”; he was merely claiming that Rev. Hill should have been able to argue in court that the executions were justifiable homicide. (Readers of Newman’s original 2003 release, with its language about “the innocent victims of abortion that Hill endeavored to rescue” and the “many examples where taking the life in defense of innocent human beings is legally justified,” might forgive Newman’s critics for thinking that Newman was defending Hill’s actions.)14
Bearing these background facts about Newman in mind, recall that Ted Cruz, currently one of the Republican frontrunners in the race to become the next president of the United States, said on November 19: “I am grateful to receive the endorsement of Troy Newman. He has served as a voice for the unborn for over 25 years, and works tirelessly every day for the pro-life cause. We need leaders like Troy Newman in this country who will stand up for those who do not have a voice.”
Contra Cruz, we do not need such leaders—nor do we need leaders who count such people as allies.
Kevin Swanson on “The Death Penalty for Homosexuals”
During the “Freedom 2015 National Religious Liberties Conference” held November 6–7 in Des Moines, Iowa, Ted Cruz appeared on stage with Colorado pastor Kevin Swanson to discuss religion in America. Swanson’s appearance at the conference was not incidental; Swanson’s organization Generations with Vision organized and sponsored the conference.15 Moreover, Swanson is listed as one of six “keynote speakers” for the conference, and, according to the schedule listed, he offered the introductory remarks, the “closing keynote,” and other talks—in addition to his interview with the three presidential candidates who attended (Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal joined Cruz there). It’s fair to say that Swanson hosted the conference and was its driving force.
At this very conference, Swanson said the following (you can watch the video of him):
Yes, Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. Yes, Romans, chapter one, verse thirty-two, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death. His words, not mine. And I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . .
And I know, I’ve taken the counsel, many have told me this weekend, “You be careful. You choose your words carefully. We have presidentials coming down to this conference this weekend.” I understand that. But I am not ashamed of the truth of the word of God, and I’m willing to go to jail for it.
Then they ask me, “Yes, but do you advocate for our civil leaders to do this today?” And my answer is no. But why? Here’s why, because that’s not such a big deal. We are not to fear those who can kill the body. Yea, Jesus says, fear rather the one who can cast body and soul in hell forever.
The discussion concerning the capital punishment of homosexuals is nothing, is not all that important when contrasted with hellfire forever. You say, “Why wouldn’t you call for it?” I say it’s because we need some time for homosexuals to repent, that’s why.
He goes on to say that “there’s not much difference between adultery and homosexuality,” morally speaking; that he considers adultery to include “illegitimate” cases of divorce and remarriage; and that pornography is equally bad. He says (referring to others asking him the question), “Why don’t you call for it?”—with “it” referring to execution for “crimes” such as homosexuality. He answers, “America needs time to repent, of their homosexuality, of their adultery, and their porn addictions.”16
Quite obviously, here Swanson is calling for the future execution of unrepentant homosexuals by the state, after America has had “time to repent”—and only by the most fantastic act of evasion can a listener pretend that he said otherwise. He says that “civil leaders” should not execute homosexuals “today . . . because we need some time for homosexuals to repent” first. Then, after they (and the vast numbers of other “guilty” Americans) have had “time to repent,” government should execute unrepentant homosexuals (and apparently other “sinners” as well). That’s what Swanson clearly says and clearly means to say.
Notice the structure of Swanson’s argument. He claims that, today, American government should not execute homosexuals, because today American culture is too evil for that to happen. But, in the future, when America becomes morally virtuous (by his perverted religious understanding of the terms), then America will be ready to institute the death penalty for homosexuality.
Even those who pretend that Swanson did not really mean what he said still are left with the uncomfortable fact that the potential execution of homosexuals was a serious part of the discussion at this conference. The best-case scenario is that attendees seriously discussed whether government officials, in America, should execute homosexuals, and, if so, whether they should do so immediately or at some point in the future. That’s the sort of conference that Ted Cruz chose to attend and address as part of his political campaign for the presidency.
But did Cruz, despite the existence of the Internet, not know what he was getting into? Did he have no idea what sort of views Swanson espouses? No, Cruz knew exactly what sort of views Swanson espouses.
Before Cruz attended Swanson’s event, Cruz appeared on television with CNN’s Jake Tapper. Tapper said to Cruz:
You are speaking at a conference this weekend, the National Religious Liberties conference in Des Moines. It’s organized by a guy named Kevin Swanson. You’ve been very outspoken about what you deem liberal intolerance of Christians. But Kevin Swanson has said some very inflammatory things about gays and lesbians. He believes Christians should hold up signs at gay weddings, holding up the Leviticus verse, instructing the faithful to put gays to death because what they do is an “abomination.” I don’t hold you responsible for what other people say, but, given your concern about liberal intolerance, are you not in some ways endorsing conservative intolerance?
Cruz began his answer, “Listen, I don’t know what this gentleman has said or hasn’t said”—and then he proceeded to completely evade Tapper’s question.17 Even if Cruz was not aware of Swanson’s views prior to the interview with Tapper—which is wildly implausible—he certainly was aware of some of Swanson’s views prior to the conference, because Tapper told him about them. Cruz obviously was aware of Swanson’s views by the time of the conference and probably well before that (unless Cruz wishes to argue that he did not hear what Tapper said and that his campaign is run by idiots who do not watch his television interviews and do not know how to conduct simple Google searches).
Here is the most plausible interpretation of the facts: Swanson organized the event in question, Cruz knew that Swanson organized it, Cruz knew the sorts of views that Swanson espouses, and Cruz went to the event anyway in order to pander to the evangelical voters that Swanson attracts. Put bluntly, Cruz calculated that his political gain from rubbing shoulders with Swanson and his acolytes would outweigh the political damage of, well, rubbing shoulders with Swanson and his acolytes.
Incidentally, Swanson’s tirade about homosexuals was not the only lunacy on display at the conference. Another speaker at the event, a pastor, distributed literature calling for the death penalty for (you guessed it) homosexuals.18 Less horrific but also bizarre, another speaker explained how the Disney film Frozen encourages children to turn away from God and follow Satan.19 That’s just a taste. Given that Swanson’s organization planned the event, the fact that it attracted some of the most fanatical representatives of modern American Christianity (in addition to Swanson) should surprise no one.
Note that I am not claiming that Cruz agrees with Swanson; obviously he does not (because Swanson is a bloodthirty fanatic). What I am claiming is what is true: that Cruz intentionally sought an alliance with Swanson and with Swanson’s acolytes by attending and speaking at Swanson’s hate-filled event, even talking with Swanson on stage about religion in the context of Cruz’s political campaign. Is that not sufficiently damning?
It isn’t according to Cruz’s campaign spokesperson, Rick Tyler. In reply to Rachel Maddow, Tyler first claimed that Swanson’s remarks were “not explicit” enough to justify the concerns expressed (!), then claimed that Cruz should not be held “accountable for something he did not say nor believes.”20
But Tyler misses the point. Cruz should not be held accountable for what Swanson says; Cruz should be held accountable for actively allying himself with Swanson, considering what Swanson says. If that is not obvious to a man seeking to become president of the United States, it’s obvious that that man is unsuited to the position.
As Ted Cruz himself openly acknowledges, religious faith is a centerpiece of his campaign for the presidency. A major part of Cruz’s political strategy is to ally himself with evangelical leaders and voters—including the outright theocrats Troy Newman and Kevin Swanson. Anyone who takes seriously Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state” must condemn Cruz for these tactics and alliances.
1. “Sen. Ted Cruz Objects to Democrats Attempt to Repeal Free Speech Protections,” Senator Ted Cruz, September 9, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXAYFzhNhQg.
2. “Senate Session, Part 2,” C-SPAN, September 24, 2013, http://www.c-span.org/video/?315212-2/senate-session-part-2.
3. Asheesh Agarwal and John Delacourt, “What No One Seems to Know About Ted Cruz’s Past,” PJ Media, September 30, 2015, https://pjmedia.com/blog/what-no-one-seems-to-know-about-ted-cruzs-past. Ted Cruz’s campaign web site lists a number of other issues on which Cruz is friendly to freer markets; see “Jobs & Opportunity,” Ted Cruz 2016, https://www.tedcruz.org/record/jobs-opportunity/ (accessed November 30, 2015). By contrast, Cruz’s positions regarding immigration are decidedly protectionist in nature; see “Cruz Plan to Top Illegal Immigration Highlights,” Ted Cruz 2016, https://www.tedcruz.org/cruz-immigration-plan-summary/ (accessed November 30, 2015).
4. See “Life, Marriage & Family,” Ted Cruz 2016, https://www.tedcruz.org/record/life-marriage-family/ (accessed November 30, 2015); see also Peggy Fikac, “Ted Cruz Says Questions about Mourdock Rape Comment Are ‘An Unfortunate Distraction from the Issues that Matter,’” Chron, October 31, 2012, http://blog.chron.com/txpotomac/2012/10/ted-cruz-says-questions-about-mourdock-rape-comment-are-an-unfortunate-distraction-from-the-issues-that-matter/ and Lisa Desjardins, “What Does Ted Cruz Believe? Where the Candidate Stands on 10 Issues,” PBS News Hour, July 1, 2015, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/ted-cruz-believe-candidate-stands-10-issues/.
5. “Center for Creation Studies, Liberty University, http://www.liberty.edu/academics/arts-sciences/creation/ (accessed November 30, 2015).
6. Ryan Teague Beckwith, “Transcript: Read Full Text of Sen. Ted Cruz’s Campaign Launch,” Time, March 23, 2015, http://time.com/3754392/ted-cruz-liberty-university-speech-transcript/.
7. See, for example, Abby Livingston, “Cruz to South Carolina Evangelicals: I’m One of You,” Texas Tribune, November 16, 2015, http://www.texastribune.org/2015/11/16/cruz-south-carolina-evangelicals-im-one-you/.
8. “Ted Cruz Announces Formation of National Prayer Team,” Ted Cruz 2016, November 19, 2015, https://www.tedcruz.org/news/ted-cruz-announces-formation-of-national-prayer-team/ (accessed November 30, 2015); “More than 200 Faith Leaders Endorse Ted Cruz for President,” Ted Cruz 2016, November 20, 2015, https://www.tedcruz.org/news/more-than-200-faith-leaders-endorse-ted-cruz-for-president/ (accessed November 30, 2015).
9. See Craig Biddle, “Political ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ Properly Defined,” Objective Standard, June 26, 2012, https://www.theobjectivestandard.com/2012/06/political-left-and-right-properly-defined/.
10. Linn Armstrong and Ari Armstrong, “The Saul Alinsky Connection: Obama’s Unprincipled Class Warfare Threatens the Nation,” AriArmstrong.com, September 16, 2015, http://ariarmstrong.com/2011/09/the-saul-alinsky-connection-obamas-unprincipled-class-warfare-threatens-the-nation/.
11. “Troy Newman, Activist Behind Planned Parenthood Videos, Endorses Ted Cruz,” Ted Cruz 2016, November 19, 2015, https://www.tedcruz.org/news/troy-newman-activist-behind-planned-parenthood-videos-endorses-ted-cruz/ (accessed November 30, 2015). Newman’s work with the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood is not at issue; in my view those videos raised some important questions about some of Planned Parenthood’s practices, leading to reforms within that organization.
12. Miranda Blue, “Anti-Planned Parenthood Activist Troy Newman’s Terrifying, Woman-Shaming, Apocalyptic Manifesto,” Right Wing Watch, September 14, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/anti-planned-parenthood-activist-troy-newmans-terrifying-woman-shaming-apocalyptic-manifesto. Those who do not trust Right Wing Watch as a source should notice that the author of the piece obviously obtained a copy of the book in question and quoted directly from it. In any event, I have ordered my own copy of the book. Rachel Maddow also published a piece about Newman and Sullenger; see “Ted Cruz embraces religious radicals with violent message,” MSNBC, November 24, 2015, http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/cruz-embraces-radicals-with-violent-message-573836355908.
13. “Operation Rescue’s Non-Violent History is a Matter of Public Record,” Operation Rescue, October 16, 2015, http://www.operationrescue.org/archives/operation-rescues-non-violent-history-is-a-matter-of-public-record/.
14. “Execution of Paul Hill Nothing Less than Murder,” Operation Rescue West and California Life Coalition, September 3, 2003, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20110930105903/http://mttu.com/Articles/Execution%20of%20Paul%20Hill%20Nothing%20Less%20than%20Murder.htm; this document lists Troy Newman as “Director, Operation Rescue West” and Cheryl Sullenger as “Director, California Life Coalition.”
15. See the web site for the conference at https://freedom2015.org; see a page for Generations with Vision discussing the conference at https://generationswithvision.com/Store/2015/11/freedom-2015-audio/; and see a page about Kevin Swanson’s role with Generations with Vision at https://generationswithvision.com/about/meet-our-director/.
16. Miranda Blue, “Kevin Swanson: No Death Penalty For Gays . . . Until They Have Time To Repent,” Right Wing Watch, November 7, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/kevin-swanson-no-death-penalty-gays-until-they-have-time-repent. I’ve written about the conference in question before, but I wanted to offer more details in this piece; for the earlier pieces see Ari Armstrong, “Why I Will Vote for Any Democrat over Ted Cruz,” AriArmstrong.com, November 25, 2015, http://ariarmstrong.com/2015/11/why-i-will-vote-for-any-democrat-over-ted-cruz/ and Ari Armstrong, “Voting, Political Activism, and Taking a Stand,” AriArmstrong.com, November 25, 2015, http://ariarmstrong.com/2015/11/voting-political-activism-and-taking-a-stand/.
17. Curtis Houck, “Tapper to Cruz: Are You ‘Endorsing Conservative Intolerance’ by Attending Event with Activist Pastor,” Newsbusters, November 5, 2015, http://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/curtis-houck/2015/11/05/tapper-cruz-are-you-endorsing-conservative-intolerance-attending. Regarding the signs that Kevin Swanson encourages his followers to hold at gay weddings, see Brian Tashman, “Swanson: Tell Gay Couples To Die On Their Wedding Day,” Right Wing Watch, September 5, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/swanson-tell-gay-couples-die-their-wedding-day.
18. Brian Tashman, “‘Death Penalty For Gays’ Literature At Right-Wing Conference,” Right Wing Watch, November 6, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/death-penalty-gays-literature-right-wing-conference.
19. Brian Tashman, “GOP Confab Ends With Call To Execute Gays Who Don’t Repent, Send Queen Elsa Back To Hell,” Right Wing Watch, November 10, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/gop-confab-ends-call-execute-gays-who-dont-repent-send-queen-elsa-back-hell.
20. “Rachel Maddow Show 11/26/2015,” November 26, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_ZFB-qlXBo. Maddow, with whom I often disagree on political matters, has done some hard-hitting work regarding Cruz’s association with Troy Newman and Kevin Swanson, and she provided a number of leads for my research.
Ted Cruz spoke at an event where the host openly called for the death penalty for homosexuals—albeit only after they’ve had a chance to “repent.”
I support many of Ted Cruz’s positions, including his call for freedom of association for religious business owners. In 2013, I praised Cruz for taking a stand against ObamaCare (and for quoting Atlas Shrugged in the process). Last year, I praised Cruz again for championing freedom of speech in the political realm.
Earlier this year, when my then-editor Craig Biddle described Cruz as potentially “the best [candidate] America will see in this election cycle,” his case struck me as optimistic but not wildly implausible. “Time will tell,” Biddle added.
What time has told me is that not only can I not vote for Ted Cruz for president, but that I must vote for any Democrat against him. Why?
In early November, Cruz, along with Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, spoke at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa. At that event, host Kevin Swanson openly called for the death penalty for homosexuals—albeit only after they’ve had a chance to “repent.” Another speaker at the conference distributed literature advocating the death penalty for homosexuals.
While appearing on stage with Swanson, Cruz said that a nonreligious person “isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this country.” But who isn’t fit to be president is anyone who shares the stage, purposely and in camaraderie, with a man who openly calls for the (future) mass murder of homosexuals.
Huckabee tried the dodge that he didn’t have “any knowledge” of Swanson’s views before hand—as though he had never heard of Google. Right Wing Watch alone has posted dozens of articles about Swanson.
Cruz can’t even claim Huckabee’s excuse. Before Cruz attended the event, CNN’s Jake Tapper warned Cruz on television that Swanson (as Tapper paraphrases) thinks “the faithful [should] put gays to death because what they do is an abomination.”
It is no stretch to liken Swanson to the Taliban. Swanson doesn’t want to see random acts of terror against the general citizenry; he “merely” wants to eventually see state-sanctioned terror against homosexuals (among others), along the lines of the policies of murderous theocracies such as Iran and Saudia Arabia.
By appearing on stage in friendship with Swanson, Cruz has completely destroyed any credibility he may have had as a leader against violent religious movements.
Jindal has already dropped out, and I don’t expect much from Huckabee. But Cruz is now showing up in third place in Iowa polls, and I expect that the campaigns of one or both of the current leaders, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, will eventually implode. So Cruz, it seems now, is seriously positioned to potentially be the GOP nominee for president—which adds considerable urgency for sensible people to speak out against him.
Of course, if Cruz explicitly condemns Swanson and his horrific views regarding homosexuals, then I will consider changing my position. But Cruz has already let most of a month go by without doing that, so far as I have seen.
The thought of voting for Hillary Clinton, never mind Bernie Sanders, sickens me. But many GOP primary voters seem determined to give me no other choice. (At this point, I think the only Republicans with traction I might be able to vote for are Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina.)
Whenever Swanson and his ilk share the Republican stage, I will vote Democrat, every time. How can a sane person do otherwise?
Update: In my March 2 article I offer a somewhat different take in light of new strategies.
Now, not only do top Colorado Republican candidates Bob Beauprez (governor) and Cory Gardner (U.S. Senate) have to contend with a so-called “personhood” measure on the ballot, they have to share the stage with Gordon Klingenschmitt, Republican candidate for House District 15.
Klingenschmitt recently made the following remarks, as Fox31 reports: “The open persecution of Christians is underway. Democrats like Polis want to bankrupt Christians who refuse to worship and endorse his sodomy. Next he’ll join ISIS in beheading Christians, but not just in Syria, right here in America.”
I disagree with Polis’s position on laws forcing business owners to act against their judgment; for some of my reasons, see my recent blog post for the Objective Standard. But Klingenschmitt is not here expressing reasoned disagreement: He is expressing bigoted hatred. Some of Polis’s proposals are relatively bad in the context of American politics (and some of them are relatively good), but comparing him to the butchers of Islamic State is just evil. (Colorado Republican chair Ryan Call denounced the comments, as Fox31 reports.)
In an “apology” video—in which Klingenschmitt bizarrely mixes his version of the “ice bucket challenge”—Klingenschmitt says he was using hyperbole to “exaggerate to make a point.” He accused Democrats of lacking a sense of humor. How ridiculous. He has made a point, alright, although not the one he intended to make.
Consider a couple other off-the-wall remarks this Republican candidate has uttered:
• “I looked into [a woman’s] eyes as she began to weep and I said ‘you foul spirit of lesbianism, this woman has renounced you, come out of her in Jesus’ name’ and she began to wrestle with that and suddenly her eyes began to bug out. . . .”
• “The Bible defines spiritual discernment, and the ability to see invisible angels or demons, or the Holy Spirit, influencing human morality. . . . Julius Genachowski, the outgoing FCC chairman . . . has not enforced decency standards. . . . There’s perhaps a demonic spirit of tyranny or immorality inside of him. . . .”
In Colorado’s primary election, 3,472 of Klingenschmitt’s fellow Republicans voted for him over his opponent to put him up to replace Mark Waller, a Republican who ran for Attorney General (until getting trounced in the primary).
Yes, these Colorado Republicans offered a bigoted exorcist as a candidate for the Colorado legislature—and then Republicans wonder why metro, women, and nonsectarian voters routinely hand big elections to the Democrats, despite the Dems’ many problems.
With his new anti-poverty plan, Paul Ryan explicitly endorses the welfare state (which he calls a “safety net”), notes James Pethokoukis for the American Enterprise Institute—and so does Pethokoukis. Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Institute replies that a coercive welfare state is immoral, although a voluntarily funded “safety net” is not. Pethokoukis replies that he and AEI emphatically support the welfare state, although a modified one, and think it’s not going away.
The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published May 11 by Grand Junction Free Press.
What do skeptics from Denver and conservatives from the Heritage Foundation have in common? More than you might initially guess.
We suppose Ari is one of the few people to have attended both a Heritage event and a Skepticamp (a day filled with talks critical of mysticism and the paranormal). He may be the only one to have done so on back-to-back weekends.
During the last weekend of April, Heritage sponsored a two-day event in Colorado Springs for free-market activists. On May 5, Denver-area skeptics organized a Skepticamp in Parker. Ari attended both events, and the juxtaposition of ideas merits some discussion.
Of course the huge disagreement between the conservatives and the skeptics concerns the reasonableness of believing in a supernatural entity. Most of those who attended the Heritage event believe in the Christian God. Probably everyone at Skepticamp, on the other hand, believes that no god exists, and that neither the evidence nor any rational argument supports a belief in God’s existence.
That is a huge debate, and one’s beliefs on the matter impact one’s entire worldview. By the time people reach adulthood, they usually settle their beliefs on the matter; we doubt that anyone who attended either event will seriously consider changing positions.
While we cannot understate the importance of the debate over God’s existence, nevertheless beyond that issue many conservatives share much in common with many skeptics. And we think the similarities are just as interesting.
We hope the skeptics would have been impressed by much of what Heritage historian Matthew Spalding had to say. Spalding sees America’s founding as rooted in the Enlightenment, a movement that recognized the power of human reason to advance science and governments. Spalding described the core principles of America—equality under the law, a recognition of the facts of human nature, and government rooted in the consent of the governed—and argued that everyone, whether pagan or Christian, can discover these truths through reason.
True, skeptics would disagree with Spalding’s view that “reason and revelation agree” about such things. Nevertheless, Spalding resisted the views of some that American principles flow only from the Christian tradition. Spalding pointed out that the Constitution is not a sectarian document, and that Jefferson and other Founders drew on the ideas of Aristotle, Cicero, and other pre-Christian thinkers.
Spalding also spoke about the profound importance of religious liberty and freedom of conscience, ideals many skeptics also support. For example, Spalding praised George Washington’s “Letter to the Jews of Newport,” written early in the great man’s term as president.
Washington wrote, “The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.”
We are proud to call ourselves liberals in this Washingtonian tradition. And both conservatives and skeptics who follow Washington in supporting freedom of conscience are to that degree liberals in the truest sense.
Many skeptics could learn a thing or two from Spalding about the profound importance of economic liberty. While skeptics claim to be critical thinkers, some unthinkingly embrace leftist political goals emanating from the disturbed mind of Karl Marx and the so-called “Progressive” movement that he inspired. To take but one example, some skeptics seemed to support censorship of political speech by individuals interacting voluntarily in groups (“corporations”).
Spalding spoke eloquently of the Founders’ respect for property rights, economic liberty, and the rule of law that protects equality under the law, not “equality” of resources that others produce. As Spalding argued, such liberties flow from natural facts about people and the use of reason to recognize those facts and their proper political implementation.
Unfortunately, sometimes skeptics and American Christians make a comparable error. Some skeptics see the cause of economic liberty as bound up with the religious right and reject both. Some Christians think that the problem with Communism was its atheism, rather than its reliance on a secularized version of religion that treats the collective as a mystical superentity. Capitalism—the system of individual rights (including economic liberty)—finds its defense in reason based on the evidence of the natural world.
But many skeptics do indeed endorse economic liberty. Last year Barry Fagin, a free-market writer for the Independence Institute, spoke at Skepticamp. This year, Robert Zubrin spoke about his new book, “Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism.” Strikingly, while some of the conservatives made disparaging remarks about Charles Darwin, the greatest biologist of human history, Zubrin explained how leftists misapplied Darwin’s ideas to promote programs involving eugenics and population control.
If every conservative would attend a Skepticamp, and every skeptic would attend a lecture by the likes of Spalding, the world would be a much more interesting place—and we think a much better one.
Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari blogs at AriArmstrong.com in the Denver area.