It seems like almost conventional wisdom among people in the U.S. and across the world that Donald Trump is the most radically conservative candidate for president.
They point to his statements about trying to make Mexico pay for a wall or his suggested ban on Muslims, which, admittedly, seem to place him to the right of anyone else. But it’s not for nothing that elder statesmen like former presidential candidate Bob Dole say they’d actually prefer Trump as president to Ted Cruz because at least the former is a willing negotiator, someone who’s so inconsistent that he’s also malleable, ideologically flexible.
It’s actually Cruz who is way more hardened and radical in his conservatism than Trump in a whole lot of ways:
- Abortion and women’s reproductive health
Trump, who publicly supported abortion for much of his life, has come under fire for now saying that women should be punished for abortions (he retracted this later), but he’s also expressed some support for the women’s reproductive-health organization Planned Parenthood. Cruz called Planned Parenthood a “criminal enterprise” that he would investigate as president in an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly in February.
He also reaffirmed to Kelly in April that he opposes abortion in any circumstance, even in the case of pregnancies that result from rape and incest. “…when it comes to rape, rape is a horrific crime against the humanity of a person and needs to be punished and punished severely but at the same time, as horrible as that crime is, I don’t believe it’s the child’s fault.”
Cruz has actually topped Trump in a couple ways in the rightward push on immigration. Cruz argues Trumps immigration plans, which would allow deported immigrants to return legally, ultimately amounts to “amnesty.”
“Basically you make them fly back to their country for a minute, touch the ground, and then they come back with amnesty as citizens. Now, Donald is entitled to do that. He can advance that position, but he doesn’t get to pretend that it’s not amnesty if he’s legalizing 12 million people [who are] here illegally.”
Also unlike Trump, Cruz supports halting even legal immigration, arguing it hurts wages.
Trump promises tax cuts for the rich, which is Republican orthodoxy, but Cruz promises something far more radical and far more dubious: a flat tax of 10 percent. That means everyone, from cashiers to hedge-fund managers, all pay the same 10-percent rate.
There is no developed, western country that does such a thing, and for good reason. It would amount to a massive tax cut for the rich and a massive tax increase for many low-income Americans. It would magnify income inequality in a country that is already one of the most unequal developed economies in the world. And of course it would require huge government spending cuts.
- Abolishing a lot of government agencies
The flat tax flows nicely into another Cruz position: abolishing the IRS, because with a simplified flat tax you simply don’t need a tax-collecting agency at all. “And I think it’s why, a simple 10% flat tax that abolishes the IRS is such a powerful growth machine,” he told Hugh Hewitt last year.
He also supports closing the Commerce Department, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Education Department, the U.S. Energy Department, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to the Washington Post.
Cruz supports moving the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a show of support for Israel that would also provoke anger from Palestine and potentially set back peace talks even more. Yes, Trump joined him in that position, but well after Cruz, and after he was accused of being too squishy on Israel at the Republican Jewish Coalition, when he refused to commit to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Yes, you may wonder how Cruz could outdo Trump on this one. Granted, he doesn’t support Trump’s call for completely blocking Muslims from entering the U.S., but there are ways in which Cruz displays an even more suspicious view of Muslims.
For one, he called for police patrols specifically targeting Muslim neighborhoods in the wake of the Belgium attacks. He also hired famed islamophobe Frank Gaffney, who believes that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government in an attempt to bring it down from the inside.
- A return to the gold standard
Like many hardened conservatives, Cruz hates central banks, which attempt to maintain stable price levels and encourage economic growth by controlling the money supply. He thinks things would actually be more stable if the U.S. returned to a world where it backed up all of its cash in gold and thus couldn’t do those things.
It’s almost a joke of an idea among economists, even conservative ones. As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2012, the University of Chicago – a bastion of neo-liberal economics – surveyed top university economists across the U.S. and found unanimous disagreement that the gold standard would bring about price stability or better employment outcomes. Unanimous. Very few things are unanimous among economists.
- Supports a constitutional amendment to subject Supreme Court justices to retention elections
Americans may not pay much attention to the Supreme Court, but it’s drawn plenty of attention in recent years with the latest fight over Antonin Scalia’s successor, gay marriage, and Obamacare.
The constitution holds that justices are appointed for life by a president and are either confirmed or refused by the Senate. This is specifically because the country’s founders wanted them to decide cases on merits, not with an election in mind, because they have to decide very controversial issues.
Ted Cruz wrote an op-ed for National Review that he wants justices to have to face elections instead. This, from a strict constitutional originalist who, like many conservatives, thinks the Founding Fathers did no wrong.
Donald Trump famously flubbed the name of a bible verse and tries his best – unconvincingly – to show he’s religious before a Republican electorate that often wants that. Cruz wears his religiosity on his sleeve, and many would say he takes it too far. He once said, “From the dawn of this country, at every stage America has enjoyed God’s providential blessing,” linking American exceptionalism to religion.
He has also told CNN that America is “built on Judeo-Christian values.”
“One of the greatest lies that gets told on the airwaves over and over again is that this country has somehow embraced Barack Obama’s big government,” he said. “That’s not true. This is a center-right country. This is a country built on Judeo-Christian values.”
- Takes a strict ‘originalist’ view of the meaning of the Constitution
That may sound wonky, but it matters. It means that Cruz believes constitutional interpretation should privilege the meaning of the founders of the country even if they appear in conflict with some other value.
So for issues ranging from guns to roles of government, Cruz wants as close as possible to a return to 1776.
Image: Gage Skidmore (Flickr),CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons