The emergence of Rafael Edward Cruz (Ted to you) as a political force on the right is the latest complication for a Republican Party that’s supposed to be on the mend.
In some ways, Cruz is the anti-Marco Rubio (which of course is bad news for Florida’s ambitious senator, and the reason he’s scrambling to become Cruz’s sidekick when it comes to tilting at the “government shutdown to kill Obamacare” windmill.)
Both men are the sons of Cuban fathers who left the island nation around the time of the Castro takeover. Of course, for Rubio, it turns out his parents weren’t exactly “exiles” since they emigrated before the revolution — while, in Cruz’s case, Rafael Sr. says he fought with Castro’s forces against the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship, only to escape Batista’s wrath by snagging a student visa to the University of Texas.
Neither man has a family background that helps them relate to the DREAM Act kids, whose parents brought them to the United States out of economic necessity, but without the considerable leniency the American government affords Cuban emigrés.
Both men tout the “started with nothing and built the American dream” story of their families, which for Cruz has translated into a no-holds-barred conservatism that paints any government intervention to help Americans get health insurance or to keep kids from watching their parents get deported as moral weakness.
Cruz is dead set against immigration reform that would legalize the 11 million undocumented migrants of all ethnicities who are already in the United States.
Rubio, who has been severely punished by the Republican base for supporting reform, is just hoping a little government shutdown will help the tea party forgive and forget.
Oh, and Rafael Cruz Sr., whose middle name, Bienvenido, means “welcome,” and his American wife happened to have built their version of the American dream in Canada, where young Ted was born.
And therein lies another wrinkle for the GOP.
Cruz, by virtue of his birth and his mother’s nationality, is a citizen of both the United States and Canada, something the double Ivy League grad has seemed to just find out. Funny that. His father renounced his own Canadian citizenship in 2005, well ahead of his baby boy. But questions about whether you can add “natural born” to Cruz’s U.S. citizenship would seem more germane than the specious, and ugly, birther challenges about Barack Obama’s birthplace.
Not that there’s anything wrong with Canada. After all, they have universal healthcare.
Ted Cruz has vowed to follow in his father’s footsteps, releasing his birth certificate this week (the better to get ahead of Donald Trump) and vowing to kick the Canadians to the curb post-haste (so he can run for president).
So far, the birthers who questioned President Obama’s Americanness and demanded the sitting president of the United States show them his birth certificate have been silent on our would-be Canadian commander-in-chief.
But the irony has got to be burning a fire under The Donald’s hair.
Rubio, meanwhile, can only watch as the Texas Canadian becomes the new Latino darling of the right, while he’s left holding the immigration-reform bag.
Cruz’s inflexibility when it comes to the complicated paths of other people’s citizenship — which is at least as ironic as his dual nationality — has given the hardliners in the Republican Party cover to double down on their Party of No stance against reform.
And if his nihilistic style prevails, the Republican brand could be fatally damaged with Hispanic and moderate non-Hispanic voters.
But even then, Cruz could come out the winner, since he would be credited by the GOP base with stopping “amnesty” in its tracks, even if his and Rubio’s pipe dream of killing Obamacare doesn’t stand a chance.
Because for Cruz, victory means seeming to fight to the end, ’til the last windmill dies.
Maybe that’s just the Canadian way.