L et’s take a break from our national pastime – trying to stop Donald Trump – for a moment of clarity. Wanting Trump out of the Republican presidential race is not the same thing as proclaiming Ted Cruz an acceptable alternative. He manifestly is not. If a Trump presidency would be a disaster, a Cruz administration would be apocalyptic.
In this Grand Guignol presidential election season, Cruz, the Texas senator, has enjoyed the benefit of running against a bellicose balloon float kept aloft by racism, misogyny, and Islamophobia. Trump's say-anything long con has sucked up most of the media attention, including a boatload of negative advertising.
Meanwhile, too few people are paying attention to Cruz as he racks up states and delegates. At present, Trump has 743 delegates to Cruz's 545, but there are still 854 delegates up for grabs, giving Cruz time to further slice into Trump's once-commanding lead. At the most hotly anticipated show of the summer, the Republican National Convention, there is a chance that Cruz, with the reticent support of his reluctant party, could emerge as the nominee. And while it would be a delight to see Trump trumped, that merriment would be short-lived with Cruz one step closer to possibly becoming the leader of this nation.
With his archaic views, ill-informed grasp of civil rights, and noxious ambition, Cruz shouldn't be allowed any closer to the Oval Office than a White House tour. This is a man whose crowning achievement has been the 2013 government shutdown, which he engineered to force President Obama and the Democrat-led Senate to gut the Affordable Care Act. Of course, Obamacare remained intact, and what most people remember about their government being held hostage is Cruz reading "Green Eggs and Ham" during a 21-hour speech.
It was, as Josh Holmes, a former aide to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told The Washington Post, "like a toddler's version of legislating."
And as every toddler knows, if you act up long enough, you'll get your way. In the case of Cruz, then a freshmen senator and a Tea Party darling, it was about juicing his national profile in preparation for the presidential run he is now inflicting on us. No wonder his fellow Republicans, blamed for the shutdown, are loath to support a man willing to torch his party and country in order to further his own career.
Unlike Trump, whose political viewpoints are as unsteady as a screen door in a hurricane, Cruz doesn't waver. He voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, wants to undercut abortion rights, and denounces marriage equality and LGBT protections. He trumpets carpet-bombing ISIS, even though military leaders say that is neither a logical nor moral option. He resists even the most basic gun control measures. He wants to ban refugees from regions linked to terrorism.
Say what you will about Cruz, but we've always known where he stands — and it's on the backs of the poor, the necks of women, and the rights of everyone who rejects his mean, cauterized vision for this country and the world.
In his novel "Infinite Jest," David Foster Wallace, who would take his own life, compared the "invisible agony" faced by a suicidal person to someone who chooses to jump from a window rather than be consumed in a burning building.
"When the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It's not desiring the fall; it's terror of the flames," Wallace wrote. "You'd have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling."
While we fret over Donald Trump, it's worth remembering that Ted Cruz is that terror way beyond falling.
Renée Graham writes regularly for the Globe. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.