After the horror of the Orlando night club shooting, which killed over 50 people and injured over 50 more, each party has scrambled to encroach on fundamental Constitutional rights of the American people in an attempt to provide them with a sense of security. On the Democrat side, as we speak, members of the house of representatives are staging a sit in protest over the house GOP’s refusal to replace due process with secret lists as the tool to determine whether or not someone can be denied the right to own a gun. Unfortunately, on the Republican side we are dealing with a proposal every bit as heinously unconstitutional, a proposal which would grant the FBI warrantless access to the internet records (including web search history, browser history and email metadata) of every American. This assault on our basic constitutional rights was proposed in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, and represents a sharp turn from the GOP’s recent tendency to look more closely at civil liberties issues, especially after the rise of Rand Paul’s political star in 2014.
Probably the greatest personification of the GOP’s move from paying lip service to the notion of civil liberties towards its current state of simply ignoring them is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who ran on a platform of abolishing the TSA and internet censorship bills like SOPA along with other libertarian causes such as setting up an exit strategy for Iraq and Afghanistan. He has since gone back on nearly every one of those promises. Cruz voted in favor of allowing the FBI to warrantlessly collect the internet records of American citizens, completing a process that saw him go from trying to position himself as more pro liberty than Rand Paul in 2014-2015 during the USA Freedom Act debate to arguing with Marco Rubio that the same exact piece of legislation actually expanded spying during the 2016 debates. This is a shift that has seen Cruz blatantly flip flop on issues such as criminal justice reform, marijuana legalization, whether the Freedom Act ended bulk data collection or expanded it, military intervention in Syria and nearly a dozen other issues.
Cruz is a particularly instructive example for liberty activists due to the attempts by Cruz to court them as part of his campaign. Early in the campaign Cruz released a video with about a half dozen former Ron Paul supporters from Iowa who came out in support of him, and created his “Liberty Leadership Team”, led by former Libertarian Party nominee (and drug warrior) Bob Barr. Though this effort turned out to be largely unsuccessful, it created an environment where Rand Paul had to fight to maintain his base instead of expanding on it, and as a result the liberty candidate in the race was pigeon holed into irrelevance. Those liberty activists who did choose to support Cruz over Rand are in large part to blame for the anti liberty tone of this presidential campaign and they oughta be ashamed of that.
It is not as if Ted Cruz didn’t give us very clear signs that this sort of a betrayal was coming. Whether it was his Motley Crew of neocon foreign policy advisors, his career as an acolyte of George W Bush, his praise of Joe Lieberman as a potential defense secretary or his vote against offsetting cuts to increases in defense spending there are probably dozens of examples of why libertarians should have been very skeptical of him. That being said, his anti liberty posturing pre Iowa caucus pales in comparison to how he has acted since New Hampshire ended and libertarians became a much less important voting bloc for him. Along with this latest vote, Cruz has had several other transgressions.
For example, he endorsed against David Simpson, perhaps the greatest champion of liberty in the Texas state house, instead endorsing Simpson’s opponent Bryan Hughes. He also grilled attorney general Loretta Lynch on her willingness to allow states to legalize marijuana, asking over a dozen questions which were framed in a way which implied clear opposition to the idea. Cruz abandoned the free trade position over the course of the campaign, resorting to language that would make the SEIU proud in a naked attempt to pander to Donald Trump voters. Finally, and perhaps worst of all, Cruz called for Edward Snowden to be charged with treason for his heroic exposure of the bulk collection of the metadata of millions of Americans, the very same sort of collection which Cruz just voted to allow the FBI to conduct without a warrant.
A little over a year ago Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for President of the United States, running on a platform which seemed somewhat libertarian and very appealing to fiscal conservatives. Yet as the campaign went on and the tone of the party shifted Cruz chose politics over principles and bolted from the liberty movement as fast as he could. If there is one lesson for liberty activists to learn from all of this it’s that you should not give somebody your support for a major office such as the presidency if you cannot verify their support for liberty in a tangible way. That when somebody is presenting you with major red flags you should focus intensely on those areas rather than avoiding them. We have a budding group of prospects for higher office to choose from in 2020 and beyond, there is no reason to settle for establishment snakes who are trying to harness our movement’s energy to their own ends. What Lying Ted Cruz did to the liberty movement happens to every political movement at some point, our job is to learn from it and make sure it never happens again.