“I felt like it would be better to be dead than to continue living being a rape victim, being a rape survivor. … I felt in that moment if there had been an easy way out, I probably would have taken it.”Elizabeth Smart, from the Salt Lake Tribune
Smart’s ordeal in the early 2000s was nightmarish. She was kidnapped from her bedroom at age 14, then repeatedly raped and abused for nine months before being rescued by police. After being freed, it was discovered that there had been moments during her captivity when she’d had the opportunity to escape, but hadn’t taken them.
This was due, in part, to an emotional reaction, one used by predators throughout the world. Smart had been raised to believe in the value of purity, and when she had been raped, she was told by her attackers that she was now worthless, that her family wouldn’t want her back. Intellectually she knew they were loathsome and untrustworthy people, but emotionally she felt they may be correct. Her uncertainty was used as a point of attack against her, crushing her spirit and rendering her compliant.
This lesson is also applicable in politics.
I don’t believe there is a bigger political disappointment for me, in the past twenty years, than Ted Cruz. A brilliant man with a history of fighting for the Constitution and the rights of Texans, he has morphed over the course of two years into a political toady of President Trump and a man who agrees with Elizabeth Warren about the danger of private enterprise.
People have correctly pointed out that Cruz used Cambridge Analytica on the campaign trail. Rick Wilson – a man who very publicly did not bend the knee to Trump – talks in his book Everything Trump Touches Dies about his disfavor for Cruz prior to Cruz’ capitulation, and he had direct interaction with the Senator. So it’s very plausible that I was mistaken in my support of the man.
It’s also very possible I wasn’t. Even if he had become corrupted in recent years, it’s extremely difficult for me to believe that he was a manipulative schemer back as a child and teen, learning the Constitution verbatim and arguing for it in high school, a person who, when opposition researchers went back to his teen years, could only find a mildly self-effacing video of him making goofy jokes.
Somewhere along the way, then, he was corrupted. It may have been prior to his endorsement of Trump… or it may be that the reason he was disliked by professional operatives like Wilson was that he was who he claimed to be, an evangelist for the Constitution, and that they were unnerved by someone who would be such a true believer while simultaneously willing to use manipulation to achieve his goals. That combination can be daunting.
Whether his sea change happened due to the pressure of the Trump contingent of Texans making it clear that Cruz would lose re-election or because of something in the past that had convinced him he’d be better served if he abandoned his true belief for a mask, something happened to destroy his belief in the vision laid out by the Founding Fathers.
This isn’t just about Cruz, though.
He might be the most obvious example, but there are others – Mike Lee, Art Laffer, there are dozens of famous names and thousands of average people – who have decided that it’s just not worth promoting the Constitution anymore. They capitulated and jumped onto the Trump train for any one of many reasons; they wanted to beat the Democrats; they loved the idea of finally moving the Israeli embassy; they were afraid of waves of immigrants destroying the American way of life; they truly believed that he would fix health care… it doesn’t matter. What matters is that, when faced with what they believed was no other choice, they signed on to an agenda led by a demonstrated fraud and grifter.
Since then, they’ve had a number of opportunities to walk away, but they’ve stayed and in many cases become listed among Trump’s most strident and reflexive defenders. For some it may be because they were only pretending to principles, so as to gain respect from the pro-Constitution group. For some it may be because they feel that, having succumbed, they will never again be welcomed by what used to be called the conservatives.
They will be welcomed back, if at any point they recant and reject populism. If they truly want to move back to the Constitution, there isn’t any barrier holding them back, only fear of being dismissed due to their past trespasses.