When we were in St. Andrews, Scotland for the Spring 2015 semester, I remember our Baptist church there praying for parliamentary elections. The implicit message of the prayers was, “Lord, we have no obvious options here. Please help us to know how to vote.”
I have been having the same feeling about the GOP race lately. The preponderance of white evangelicals are rallying around Ted Cruz. In many media circles, the myth of the “Trump evangelicals” has been dispersed. Many of the “evangelicals” who support Trump turn out not to go to church. The number of credible evangelical leaders who support Trump is vanishingly thin.
John Kasich is, on paper, more qualified than Cruz. (It goes without saying that he and Cruz are more qualified than Trump.) But Kasich struggles to connect with voters outside of Ohio, and he has a perplexing tone-deafness on religious liberty issues that irritates many evangelicals who might otherwise gravitate toward him.
Then there is Cruz. He’s the obvious evangelical choice in many ways, and he has the support of some serious people, such as his former Princeton professor Robert George. Cruz has deep experience in legal matters, making him an attractive choice for evangelicals who care about religious liberty and right-to-life issues. We’d have no hesitation about Cruz choosing a successor to Antonin Scalia.
But…what to do about Cruz’s traveling companions? I have written here before about Cruz’s close relationship with Glenn Beck, who has said that the Bible and the Constitution are both “sacred scriptures,” and who recently said that God has revealed to him that Cruz is the anointed candidate for 2016. I ended up in a kerfuffle with Beck over that issue, when I was quoted by Breitbart News saying that I did not believe that God reveals His preferred candidate to us. Beck replied to me on his radio show, saying “To you, Dr. Kidd. To you. To you God hasn’t revealed Cruz as divinely anointed.” But God had revealed him as such to Beck.
Then there is Beck’s history guru, and Cruz Super PAC director David Barton, whom I have written about in multiple venues. I led WORLD Magazine’s 2012 coverage of the controversy over Barton’s discredited book The Jefferson Lies.
Should evangelicals vote for Cruz, in spite of these connections? (Some evangelicals will have additional concerns about Cruz, of course, including his strident views on illegal immigration, and his vow to “carpet bomb” ISIS in Iraq and Syria.)
Here’s what I’m thinking: If the question is Trump vs. Cruz in the GOP primary, Cruz is clearly better. But that’s a pretty low standard. Not only is Trump unqualified and uninformed, but he has displayed appalling streaks of misogyny and gutter-mindedness that make him totally unacceptable.
If the question is Cruz vs. Kasich, I would reluctantly go for Kasich. This is a tough call. Kasich’s dismissive attitude on religious liberty controversies bothers me a lot. But he’s a qualified, successful governor of a swing state. Would he be better than Hillary Clinton? Absolutely. And unlike Cruz, Kasich would have a real chance of beating Clinton in a general election. (Two caveats: I don’t know how a Clinton indictment over her private e-mail, or a Trump third-party run, might affect the November dynamics.)
The problem, of course, is that there is almost no chance that Kasich will get the nomination, barring improbable scenarios at the GOP convention. And I appreciate the sentiment among Cruz supporters that Kasich simply needs to get out of the race so that anti-Trump support can coalesce around Cruz.
So, what to do if it is Cruz vs. Clinton in the general election? On policy questions, except maybe for immigration, foreign affairs, and military intervention, I prefer Cruz. (Yes, I know that Clinton’s handling of Benghazi was awful. This is lesser of two evils stuff.) I couldn’t vote for Clinton in any case, though I might be tempted to do so to stop Trump.
But what about Cruz’s connections with Barton and Beck? It is not just that Cruz has accepted their endorsements, a la John McCain and John Hagee in 2008. McCain eventually repudiated Hagee. Cruz depends on Beck and Barton in his campaign. They are among his most influential supporters and organizers. So a vote for Cruz means, to some extent, a vote for Barton and Beck. And the chance that Barton could end up with a position in a Cruz administration is a real concern, as ridiculous as that prospect might seem at first.
Sorry, folks. If it is Cruz vs. Clinton, I’m afraid that I’ll have to vote for a third party candidate, or not vote for president. In a way, it doesn’t matter what I do – Cruz would win Texas, for sure, with or without my vote. And I “get it” if many of my evangelical friends do support Cruz, and don’t share my alarm about the Barton-Beck connection. But for me, those traveling companions make Cruz a non-option.
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