Frankly, I would have found it hard to imagine if the senator didn’t stick with a rabid group such as TTP, given that he has trafficked in the Big Lie that the election was stolen, defended anti-voting rights measures that fall disproportionately on non-White and poor voters, and refused to condemn the disgraced former president for instigating a riot (not to mention his record of racist remarks).
There is a bigger problem than Cruz and a rump tea party group. Fifty U.S. senators and 212 House members belong to a group that mouthed Russian propaganda; that tried to disenfranchise millions of voters, focusing on major metropolitan areas with large Black populations; that still reveres the former president and tries to play down the Jan. 6 insurrection; that frequents a cable TV news network that spouts replacement theory and other white supremacists themes; that insists Washington, D.C., is not “well-rounded” but Wyoming is; that attacks women of color nominated for top government posts with smears and lies intended to make them seem anti-police despite police endorsements; that suggests having fewer people vote is better; that continues to beat the drum of “voter fraud” even though scores of audits and lawsuits could not find any evidence beyond sporadic instances of wrongdoing; and that takes offense whenever someone points to systemic racism in policing, criminal justice, health care and other aspects of American life.
This increasingly radical, anti-democratic and nativist group is hiding in plain sight as one of the two major political parties. Driven by desperation and panic, it increasingly resembles a cult in which reality must conform to the demands of cult worship.
Last November, Katherine Stewart, author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,” wrote in the New York Times that what binds Republicans together is “a radical political ideology that is profoundly hostile to democracy and pluralism, and a certain political style that seeks to provoke moral panic, rewards the paranoid and views every partisan conflict as a conflagration, the end of the world.” The same force also explains why they remain loyal to a leader who promises to save them from supposed domination by people of color and anti-Christian zealots.
Take away the GOP name and describe its belief system and unhinged fervor. What’s left? A radicalized, nativist group that now repudiates (or pretends to repudiate) the results of the election. As Stewart wrote: “The point of conspiratorial narratives and apocalyptic rhetoric is to lay the groundwork for a politics of total obstruction, in preparation for the return of a ‘legitimate’ ruler.” She warns that we “ignore the political implications for our democracy at our peril.”
In short, I am far less concerned about Cruz’s embrace of a small band of extremists in Texas than I am about the party that he and his Republican colleagues belong to. That’s where the most dangerous, anti-democratic and nativist politicians reside.