Skip to comments.Ted Cruz is dangerous: Why liberals scoff at his campaign at their peril
Posted on 04/07/2015 2:50:31 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
No, the Texas senator isn't likely to capture the GOP ticket. But his brand of conservatism poses its own threat.
Since Ted Cruz first announced his candidacy, much has been made of his chances of winning, his arrogance and his extreme conservative views. But most of the controversy over his candidacy centers on his lying.
It is no surprise to any of us that politicians lie. We generally assume they stretch the truth to get elected, to denigrate their political foes, and to bolster their images. But Cruz may just represent one of the biggest liars in recent history. In fact, he may be a whole new form of political liar.
The Daily Beast reports that, Cruzs Politifact track record for publicly asserted falsehoods is the second-highest among front-runners, totaling 56 percent of all statements theyve looked at. And Matthew Rozsa tell us that Googling Ted Cruz lies pulls back an astonishing 7,890,000 results, and on Twitter, the two phrases are basically synonymous.
The trouble with this angle on Cruzs misstatements is that it presumes that Cruz is, in fact, lying. But lying depends on the liar knowing that what he is saying is false. Cruz shows no signs of such awareness. As Ann Marie Cox points out in her survey of Cruzs lies, theres more going on here than just a politicians twisting of the truth or a partisan spin on data. She wonders whether it is time to take seriously the idea that he really believes what he is saying. There are objective falsehoods that show Cruz could just be looking at a different set of data. Other, more telling whoppers show that Cruz isnt just looking at different data, hes living in a different universe.
That different universe is Cruzs world of misinformation. He doesnt lie because lying would require that he actually know the truth. And that is what makes Cruz an even greater threat to the health of our democracy than all of his lies put together. Cruz represents a turn in GOP politics where political beliefs operate more like religious fervor than reasoned inference.
Researchers have long worried about the connections between democracy and public knowledge. For obvious reasons, an informed electorate is a key part of a strong and effective democracy. Voters need to have relevant facts in order to make good choices at the polls. But research by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler explains that there is a vast difference between an uninformed public and a misinformed one. An uninformed pubic is ignorant, but a misinformed one is delusionaland thats far more dangerous.
This distinction is essential. An uninformed voter can have contact with the truth and learn from it, but a misinformed one already believes an idea thats wrong. Think of Cruzs delusional comments about climate change, the number of IRS agents, and crime rates rising in areas with stricter gun control laws. Each of these examples indicates a whole new level of political lying, since each represents fiercely held beliefs with no basis in fact. This is not a case of simple stupidity. Its a case of deeply believing something thats just wrong.
If you care about truth and think it should influence political decisions, this is highly disturbing. But it gets worse. Nyhan and Reifler further suggest that those who hold misinformed beliefs are even less likely to learn from correcting information than those who have no clue.
That means that for those who think like Cruz, there is virtually no amount of data, reality checks or facts that can persuade the deluded citizen to give up their false ideas. This is the mindset of the Tea Party, the Koch brothers, and many on the far right. Nyhan and Reifler refer to this as motivated reasoning. What they find is that people who are attached to falsehoods perceive any correcting information as partisan and flawed. So conservatives dont perceive science as information. To them, its just a liberal agenda. In other words, they dont believe the truth.
And theres more. Not only do those with false beliefs practice motivated reasoning, we also now know that any challenge to their beliefs is likely to backfire. Nyhan and Reifler found that when conservatives who thought there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were exposed to news stories correcting that view, the correction backfired. That is, conservatives who received a correction telling them that Iraq did not have WMDs were more likely to believe that Iraq had WMD than those in the control condition.
This means that exposure to the truth not only failed to adjust their views to reality, it actually made them believe in their false ideas even more strongly. This is why Cruzs candidacy is really scary. This is not a case of a politician strategically using lies to advance a career; his whole career is dedicated to advancing a political platform built on a delusional view of the world. The catch is that to those who think like Cruz it isnt delusional, it makes perfect sense.
Cruzs misbeliefs are part of a longer story of how the GOP has come to be redefined by a vocal, aggressive, highly visible faction that has decided that any facts that contradict their worldview are merely liberal bias. This is what Stephen Colbert called truthiness. Think back to the lies of Paul Ryan at the 2012 RNC or to Anderson Coopers confrontation with Michelle Bachmann over her penchant for lying. Recall also the research showing that viewers of Fox News actually know less about the world than people who watch no news of any kind.
But really if we want to peg the rise of a misinformed GOP on a politician we would have to start with the George W. Bush administration.
Back in 2008, we learned the Bush administration made 935 false statements in the lead-up to the Iraq war. Yet today, despite multiple bipartisan reports confirming no WMDs were found, a significant faction of the U.S. public still cling tenaciously to the idea that the war there was just. A recent poll conducted by Farleigh Dickinson University found that 40 percent of US citizens still think there were WMDs in Iraq.
But falsehoods are only the tip of the iceberg. The bigger problem is the emotional attachment to the falsehoods. The new GOP is increasingly connected to a sense of constant threat and a persistent worry that the nation and its values are under attack. When we combine a great distortion of reality with a party politics based on fear and extremism, we threaten the viability of a functional political system. That, of course, was exactly what Cruz did when he led the government shutdown of 2013.
Democrats, too, hold dear to their beliefs. Its part of human nature to want to resist information that contradicts with the way we see the world. Psychologists call the practice confirmation bias, and define it as the tendency to interpret information in ways that support our preconceptions. And yet, we dont all resist correction of our false beliefs to the same degree.
Indeed, there is research that suggests there is a vast difference between a liberals ability to accept a new take on the world than a conservatives. To put it simply, part of what it means to be liberal is to be open-minded. That means liberals are open to information that might change a perception. In contrast, conservatives are defined as resisting change and as emotionally attaching more strongly to their beliefs. What we find with Tea Party politics, though, is a far more extremist version of Republican beliefs than we have ever seen before. Michael Grunwald of Time calls the new GOP an example of reality-defying extremism and chronic obstructionism and borderline surrealism.
The poster boy for this extremist, reality-bending faction of the party is Ted Cruz. As the Washington Post reports, Cruz isnt [just] running for presidenthes running to be the leader of a new GOP. And thats no lie.
Sophia A. McClennen is Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University. She writes on the intersections between culture, politics, and society. Her latest book, co-authored with Remy M. Maisel, is, Is Satire Saving Our Nation? Mockery and American Politics.
The viciousness of this piece simply illustrates how very frightened they are.
Why? Perhaps it is better for a person who has run a state to be in line for President. Perhaps the ideal would be a candidate who had improved their state as governor and who also had national exposure (Senator/Congressman).
That being said, Ted Cruz has way more experience than BO
Let's hope so!
Journolistas like this one remind me of what Reagan said - "Leftists know so much...that isn't true."
This is what Stephen Colbert called truthiness.
Pretty hard to argue with an article that quotes the likes of Colbert.
All that spinning made me dizzy!
Like Abe Lincoln?
“Why? Perhaps it is better for a person who has run a state to be in line for President.”
I agree. You don’t hire somebody to be CEO of a huge company unless they’ve cut their teeth on a smaller one and proven themselves. (I don’t. But Boards do it all the time. I try not to buy stock in those companies.) I think Cruz would make a good VP. Maybe that’s his real goal.
Not only does Cruz have executive experience, he has the correct strategic vision - the latter being faaaaarrrr more important than running a state to becoming a successful President and saving America & the Constitution.
“Sophia - turn off that comedian - you have a deadline to meet!”
“Mom - I'm doing RESEARCH” she yelled up from the basement.
I got bored with this column quickly. Did it ever actually mention any of the so-called lies?
It takes a lot of cognitive dissonance to write an entire piece accusing someone of lying without giving ONE SINGLE EXAMPLE to bolster your case.
Shouldn’t it be easy to list ONE LIE that the lying liar said?
After all, we have videos of Obama telling the same lies over and over.
Ah, this was written by a Professor, not some garden variety blogger.
The word of a Professor carries much more weight.
I’m done with Cruz, I just hope Bernie Sanders runs.
Perhaps. Although he did improve Texas and many other states winning cases at the Supreme Court. As one of the top Attorney Generals he also had all sorts of people working for him (so the “executive experience” of people management.
In the meantime, Salons entire article on the vetting of Obama reads as follows:
In my own state — looking at both Democrat and Republican governors -’ I would want any of them as president. Most of them are/were career politicians who never had to really work for a paycheck or if they did, they've been in politics for so long, they have forgotten how.
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