It seems that barely a day goes by when a Republican presidential candidate doesn’t say something either awful or offensive.
Whether it’s Mike Huckabee tweeting out that he trusts “Bernie Sanders with my tax dollars like I trust a North Korean chef with my Labrador,” or Rand Paul saying that LGBT workers shouldn’t lose any sleep over being fired because of their sexual orientation since “if you are gay, there are plenty of places that will hire you,” it’s been a healthy and fierce competition to see who can take the fastest route to the political bottom.
But it is Ted Cruz who has truly hit a new low.
In commenting on Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate he derided it as “more socialism, more pacifism, more weakness, and less Constitution” and “a recipe to destroy a country.” He complained that “we’re seeing our freedoms taken away every day, and last night was an audition for who would wear the jackboot most vigorously” and “for who would embrace government power” for stripping away “your and my individual liberties.”
Let’s put aside the fact that wearing a jackboot most vigorously makes no sense; and that it’s pretty strange to call Democrats weak pacifists and then complain that they are jackbooted tyrants.
The real problem here is that Cruz’s language is verging on incitement. In a polarized political environment, in which Republicans increasingly view Democrats as illegitimate, to suggest that a Democratic win would lead to individual liberties being taken away and the country being destroyed is the height of irresponsibility.
Cruz is basically offering moral support to the angriest and most paranoid individuals who find a home in the Republican Party. Rather than toning down the country’s growing polarization, he’s throwing gasoline on the fire. And considering that the GOP has basically become the party of unfettered access to guns, Cruz’s rhetoric takes on an even more troubling hue.
Cruz isn’t running for Congress or Senate, he wants to be the president of all Americans. To suggest that one of the country’s two political parties represents a clear and present, jackbooted, danger to the rights of individual Americans should frankly be his ticket out of national politics.
Instead, considering the extremism of the modern Republican Party, he will probably get a boost from it.
Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.