Ted Cruz May Win in Iowa, But Iowa Ain't America
There are a lot of evangelical Christians in Iowa and Ted Cruz spends a lot of time courting them. If for whatever reason they sit home on Caucus Day, it’s no secret that Ted Cruz would be in trouble – and not just in Iowa. He’s expected to win there and if he doesn’t, it could set a string of losses in motion that very well might torpedo his hopes to be president.
From the start, a key element in Cruz’s strategy to win the GOP nomination was winning evangelicals, in Iowa and beyond. That’s why Cruz kicked off his campaign at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia -- a school founded by Jerry Falwell, the late fundamentalist minister. It’s why in Iowa, Cruz’s father, a pastor, campaigns for him, targeting evangelicals. And it’s why if there’s a religious rally in the state, Cruz will be there.
And at one of those rallies Cruz told the crowd that Republicans lost the last two presidential elections because millions of evangelicals stayed at home. “I believe the key to winning in 2016 is very simple,” he said. “We have to bring back to the polls the millions of conservatives who stayed home, we have to awaken and energize the body of Christ.”
At another rally he said that people of faith who sit home instead of voting “allow non-believers to elect our leaders.”
When asked by a conservative pastor moderating a religious rally how important it is for “the president of the United States to fear God,” Cruz responded that, "any president who doesn't begin every day on his knees isn't fit to be commander-in-chief of this nation."
That, it would seem, would disqualify Jews for the presidency – and of course, atheists. Jews don’t kneel in prayer and atheists don’t pray. For the record, I'm pretty sure that as an evangelical, Ted Cruz is a big fan of the Jewish people. And maybe his choice of words -- about beginning every day on your knees in prayer -- is nothing more than a broad figure of speech.
And maybe Cruz was simply doing what politicians often do – maybe he was just pandering to the crowd. But I have long suspected that if he could simply snap his fingers and make it so, Ted Cruz would snap them and turn the United States into a theocracy. And I’ve also had suspicions that had he been born a Muslim, he’d be the kind of Muslim who favors Sharia law.
Ted Cruz is against gay marriage and that’s not only his right, it makes sense given his religious sensibilities. But he co-sponsored a rally for that county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples – despite the fact that she took an oath to obey the law and the Supreme Court had already spoken on the legitimacy of gay marriage.
Would President Ted Cruz issue executive orders to knock down Supreme Court decisions that violate his religious values? He’s called the decision on gay marriage “fundamentally illegitimate” and “lawless.” So he might.
Ted Cruz is preaching to the choir in Iowa, but the rest of America is not quite like Iowa. Fifty-seven percent of Iowa caucus voters identify themselves as evangelical Christians. The percentage in the entire United States is just 13 percent.
And Republicans aren’t quite like most Americans. A recent CNN poll found that a jaw-dropping 43 percent of Republicans believe President Obama is a Muslim -- compared to 29 percent of all Americans. Mr. Obama is a Christian, despite what nearly half of Republicans think.
What works in Iowa and what works with Republicans, I’m betting, won’t work in the broader country. Ted Cruz could win the GOP nomination – that’s a possibility –but if he does, there’s a very good chance that Hillary will be the next President of the United States.
Why? One reason is that Americans are becoming less religious and more secular. A poll by Pew found that there are about five million fewer Christians across the country than there were in 2007 -- and the percentage of Americans with no religious affiliation rose to nearly 23 percent from 16 percent in 2007.
That may be good or bad for America in general depending on your point of view. But it’s not good for Ted Cruz in particular.