Senator Ted Cruz is the first Republican to declare he is running for the US presidency in 2016 – and the Tea Party favourite is as well known for his colourful speeches as for his right-wing views.
Senator Cruz announced his candidacy on Twitter with a 30-second video.
“It’s going to take a new generation of courageous conservatives to help make America great again,” he says. Predictably, the film is high on rhetorical cliche (“It’s a time for truth, a time to rise to the challenge…”, “I believe in America and her people, and I believe we can stand up and restore our promise…”) and low on content.
I’m running for President and I hope to earn your support! pic.twitter.com/0UTqaIoytP
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 23, 2015
The Ted Cruz website is similarly straightforward. Divided into four sections, it celebrates the virtues of the US constitution, family life, jobs, and a “stronger, safer America”.
So what else can we learn about the 44-year-old Texas senator? And where does the Tea Party favourite stand on the issues that will dominate the presidential campaign and US politics?
Cruz has been a senator for just two years, during which time he has built a reputation as an staunch advocate for traditional conservative principles. It means that during his campaign he is likely to portray himself as an unwavering proponent of small government.
And his political pronouncements have left no doubt where his sympathies lie. In a TV interview in 2013 he cited George Orwell – a British socialist – as he warned of the dangers of an all-powerful central government.
The ‘big government’ crowd isn’t just the left. It also includes some on the right. Ted Cruz
“The ‘big government’ crowd isn’t just the left,” he told the Mark Levin show. “It also includes some on the right. An excess of power and government is always, always, always a fundamental threat to liberty.”
The theme of the little man/woman versus the monolith of government is one he has taken up on several occasions. “At the end of the day I don’t work for the party bosses in Washington,” he told a Tea Party event in October 2013 in his hometown of Houston, Texas. “I work for each and every one of you.”
And during an infamous 21-hour filibuster against President Obama’s healthcare bill in 2013 (of which more below), he observed: “Most Americans could not give a flying flip about a bunch of politicians in Washington. Who cares?”
The Republican became a national political figure with a marathon overnight speech to the senate on 24 and 25 September 2013, in which he aimed to de-fund President Obama’s controversial health law.
It became famous for its references to popular American culture, including the children’s writer Dr Seuss, the Star Wars film series, and the US TV series Duck Dynasty.
The reason that so many Americans love Duck Dynasty is because it represents the America usually ignored or mocked by liberal elites. Ted Cruz
You get a sense of the extent to which the speech was padded out with apparent irrelevance in Senator Cruz’s aside about the Dr Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham –
“I will credit my father. He invented green eggs and ham. He did it two ways. The easy way was, he would put green food colouring in. Green Eggs and Ham was my favourite book as a little boy.
“You can actually do it. The food colouring is a little bit cheating, but if you take spinach and mix it into the eggs, the eggs turn green.”
In another line from the speech, the senator cites Duck Dynasty as the embodiment of traditional American virtues –
“The reason that so many Americans love Duck Dynasty is because it represents the America usually ignored or mocked by liberal elites: a family that loves and cares for each other, believes in God, and speaks openly about their faith.”
Ted Cruz at CPAC (Getty Images)
Freedom (and its philosophical expression, libertarianism) are central tenets of the American Tea Party movement, and Ted Cruz’s speeches frequently reference the importance of liberty.
In March 2013, the Texas Senator was involved – alongside two other right-wing members of congress, Rand Paul and Justin Amash – in yet another filibuster, this time of incoming CIA Director John O Brennan over drone policy.
It prompted former Republican presidential candidate John McCain to remark that “it’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone”. McCain’s comment allowed Senator Cruz to grandstand his belief in freedom, while playing off the “wacko bird” line –
If standing for liberty and standing for the constitution make you a wacko bird, then you can count me a very proud wacko bird. Ted Cruz
“If standing for liberty and standing for the constitution make you a wacko bird,” he told the Conservative Political Action Conference (pictured above), “then you can count me a very proud wacko bird.”
Cruz is undoubtedly pro-liberty where the freedom to bear arms is concerned. In January 2013, a month after the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings in which 20 children and six adults were fatally shot, he unequivocally condemned President Obama for his moves to restrict gun ownership in the wake of the massacre.
“This is a president, I think, who has drunk the Kool-Aid. He is feeling right now high on his own power and he is pushing on every front on guns.”
Ted Cruz is a Cuban-American. His father Rafael, who he has called his life-long hero, left Cuba in 1957, aged 18 – before Fidel Castro came to power.
So his remarks on immigration and, in particular, the Hispanic vote have been predictably nuanced. He has said: “If Republicans don’t do a better job with the Hispanic community, in the long term the Republican party will cease to exist.”
If supporting real immigration reform… is Obamaphobia – guilty as charged. Ted Cruz
But he came out against “path to citizenship” immigration reform that would offer a legal route to citizenship for immigrants living illegally in the US. “If supporting real immigration reform, not path to citizenship, is Obamaphobia – guilty as charged,” Cruz told ABC in June 2013.
His position on immigration is perhaps best summed up in an interview he gave journalist Ruban Navarrette Jr in January of this year – “No. 1: we need to get serious about securing the border, about stopping illegal immigration, particularly in a post-9/11 world.
“But No. 2, we also need to remain a nation that doesn’t just welcome but that celebrates legal immigrants who come here seeking to pursue the American dream.”