Ted Cruz’s Imagined America

I just slogged through Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign announcement speech, and have to say it’s a formula composition: a combination of a Cruz family biography and a by-the-numbers recitation of conservative policy positions. To give it the requisite “lift,” the candidate and/or his brain trust chose a rather hackneyed “imagine” construction, and applied it mechanically to both parts of the speech:

Imagine a teenage boy, not much younger than many of you here today, growing up in Cuba. Jet black hair, skinny as a rail.

Involved in student council, and yet Cuba was not at a peaceful time. The dictator, Batista, was corrupt, he was oppressive. And this teenage boy joins a revolution. He joins a revolution against Batista, he begins fighting with other teenagers to free Cuba from the dictator. This boy at age 17 finds himself thrown in prison, finds himself tortured, beaten. And then at age 18, he flees Cuba, he comes to America.

Imagine for a second the hope that was in his heart as he rode that ferry boat across to Key West, and got on a Greyhound bus to head to Austin, Texas to begin working, washing dishes, making 50 cents an hour, coming to the one land on earth that has welcomed so many millions.

You get the idea.

And then later, this:

Imagine innovation thriving on the Internet as government regulators and tax collectors are kept at bay and more and more opportunity is created.

Imagine America finally becoming energy self-sufficient as millions and millions of high-paying jobs are created.

All this imagining gets very labored and tedious–particularly since Cruz takes a detour between his biographical and ideological sections into the late eighteenth century and the Holy Founders charged by God with forever limiting government (a staple of Con-Con revisionist history).

But in a way it’s appropriate, too, since Cruz is the self-designated champion for those who really don’t like America as it is and prefer an imagined version where the Calvin Coolidge administration is the wave of the future. He really, really wants these people to look to him as their first-choice candidate amidst a host of rivals, and he spares no rhetorical expense–and no opportunity cost in terms of appealing to anyone else–to make his pitch.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.