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Beyond Good and Evil

How Ted Cruz learned to lose friends and influence people.

I had a terrible realization while watching a widely viewed YouTube video of Ted Cruz at age 18, valedictorian of the class of 1988, sitting in front of a fountain at Second Baptist School in Houston, Texas, joking with a friend about his aspirations to “be in a teen tit film”—Ted Cruz and I are just about the same age. Some other things we have in common: We are both from Calgary, a gas and oil town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Western Canada. We are both the sons of alcoholics who abandoned their families early and then turned things around through religion (Cruz’s father became a Christian evangelical, mine a Rosicrucian). We are both Texas boys: He moved from Calgary to Houston when he was four, I moved from Calgary to Fort Worth when I was 16, and both of us have spent much of our adult lives in Austin, Texas. We both have daughters: Ted has two, ages five and seven, I have three, aged 21, eleven and nine. As professor of philosophy at a Midwestern university, I believe that I am a reasonably intelligent person, and I have no doubt that Ted Cruz, a Princeton and Harvard graduate and champion debater, is exceptionally smart.

I mention these strange affinities because I struggle to understand why Ted Cruz and I have fundamentally different world views.

The New Republic’s series on the indelible political figures of the 2016 election by leading literary writers.

There is a mistaken idea popular among liberal pundits that we are presently witnessing a race to the bottom between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and that the craving for authority driving Trump’s popularity among primary voters is the same primal force behind Cruz’s candidacy. On this account, Trump and Cruz are appealing to the same voter—Trump is besting Cruz because he is better at playing the fascist. Trump understands populism, while Cruz does not; Trump can evoke and articulate our ugliest xenophobic fears (The wall will be 30 feet high! Fifty feet high!), while Cruz ineffectively appeals to his track record of combating the Gang of Eight. (Who are they again?) Trump speaks in the vernacular of a third-grader, bad versus good, winners versus losers; Ted Cruz, despite his best efforts to impersonate a good ol’ boy, winds up showing off his Ivy League credentials and alienating his own base. Despite, or perhaps because of, his nerdiness, he just can’t figure out how to become the demagogue the Republican Party so ardently desires.

But Cruz and Trump are in fact appealing to different segments of the Republican Party, and they know it. Trump is the candidate of the disoriented, the confused, the needy; Cruz is the candidate of the dogmatist, the moralist, the convicted. Trump gets the voters who fear and adore; Cruz gets the voters who hate and resent. Trump is all show; Cruz means what he says. Trump wants to be everybody’s boss; Cruz wants to be everybody’s master. Ted Cruz is much, much more dangerous than Donald Trump.

But I only realized this after following Ted Cruz for a month or two. I began with an uninformed repugnance for his views, with which I had only a vague familiarity; then I got to know him, a little bit, as an unlikely presidential candidate, a probable third or fourth place finisher; I watched the dark horse win in Iowa; and somewhere along there I came to understand that, in my opinion, no one currently running for president would be worse for the country than Ted Cruz. Not necessarily because there’s something wrong with his policies, though I consider them to be completely misguided. But because there is something frightening about this person, and there is something frightening about the way he can make people feel.

Eighteen-year-old Ted is slender, handsome, buoyant, even charming. In only a few months he’d enter Princeton, and somewhere along the way—his undergraduate years as a wily, winning debater, his successful but unpopular Harvard law days, his time as a Supreme Court clerk in which he recited to his peers the gory details of murders committed by death row convicts, his boom years as a senator who displayed consistent social contempt for his colleagues—a nastiness coalesced and hardened in Ted Cruz.

But here, with an easy, youthful grin and open, expressive face, he has none of the sleazy, predatory, pock-marked, and malignant qualities of the candidate I’d come to know. This is what happens to you when you argue that a man who was convicted for stealing a calculator should spend the next 16 years in prison, I thought. In the video, young Ted makes an awkward, oddly prophetic joke about his “ass-pirations”—it’s the kind of joke no one laughs at except the lonely guy who made it—and for a moment I glimpsed the part of Ted Cruz that would come, in its way, to win my own parsimonious liberal heart. He goes on to explain, now notoriously, that he aims for “world-domination—that sort of stuff.” Eighteen-year-old Ted is able to articulate what the 45-year-old dares not explain, or no longer feels: That he understands the irony of trying to become The President of the United States of America. He’s 18 and smart enough and even good-humored enough to know that it’s more than a little outrageous to hope to become the president of the United States. He must have cherished these kinds of crazy ambitions in his heart, or he would not be where he is today. And he’s also sincerely joking about it.

But somewhere between the 18-year-old Ted and the candidate we know today, the sense of irony was lost. The lanky high-school senior in the video was probably always a misfit, he may always have been a bully, but it took that kid years to recognize that being a misfit and a bully were political virtues, and that he, Ted Cruz, was uniquely virtuous.

At 4:30 p.m. on the eve of the caucus in Marion, Iowa, a side door opened to the assembly room of Grace Baptist Church, and Ted Cruz entered along with a chunky bodyguard and his thirty or so of his team members in their signature dark navy blue jeans. Cruz stood quietly as the pastor introduced him. He wore a blue zippered sweater over a button-down shirt, brown leather work boots, and new-looking Levi’s jeans. A few people in the first pew, near the door where Cruz stood, rose to shake his hand. Some handed him campaign posters to autograph. One parishioner passed up a leather-bound Bible and Cruz took time to write something long in the front pages. A second Bible was handed to Cruz, who again paused to write something thoughtful. More posters and more Bibles were passed up, and Cruz didn’t have time to write a message in each Bible, so he started simply signing them on the page that was held open for him: on the fly page, where a book’s author would sign.

My wife and I sat in the second row. We had driven up from Kansas City a few days before to see Cruz in Iowa, a state that he would win later that evening, besting Trump by three points and Marco Rubio by four. It would be a month before he would win another primary, his home state of Texas. 

 I watched him autograph the Bibles.

“There’s something weird about Ted Cruz and boots. He’s always talking about kicking in doors with jackboots, like he wants to wear a pair,” my wife said.  

“I get you. Trump wears shoes. Cruz wears boots. What are jackboots?”

“They’re knee-high patent leather,” she continued. “Like the Nazis. Then he has those black ostrich boots he calls his arguin’ boots. He was the first one to make fun of little Rubio’s high-heeled boots. Look, he’s wearing farmer’s boots today for the Iowans. I’m telling you, he has some weird sexual thing with boots.” 

I turned to the couple beside me, who were in their early sixties, attractive and very fit, to ask what they liked about Ted Cruz.

“He’s a good Christian man,” the woman told me. I noticed she wore black leather riding boots and a smart, close-fitting outfit from what seemed to be J. Crew or Banana Republic. Her husband smiled politely at me and then ignored our conversation, turning his eyes to Cruz. “He’s passionate, and he’s a viable option to Trump. We won’t vote for Trump. It’s between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and we haven’t decided yet.” 

Cruz took the stage. In the friendly, intimate atmosphere of the small church, he was comfortable. I’d been to many Ted Cruz events in the past couple of months, and it was the only time I’d seen him genuinely at ease. He seemed happy and not at all exhausted from the grueling schedule of his 99-county Iowa tour. Though rested, his face had an unfortunate lizard quality to it—adult Ted Cruz can never overcome the Komodo dragon quality of his skin and chin—but he wasn’t repellent. He spoke with the almost squeaky register he adopts in a religious setting, waving his arms evangelically when appealing to Christian scripture and stabbing his finger down in his debater’s manner when making a political promise. He didn’t have the chip-on-my-shoulder-but-quick-on-my-toes expression that he wears during televised debates, and he was neither obsequious nor smarmy, two typical Cruz styles I’d come to expect since following him.

“When I’m president you can bet there’s going to be some changes in Washington! On day one in the Oval Office we’re going to prosecute every member of Planned Parenthood who has committed criminal acts!”

“Yes!” the husband of the woman in the tall leather boots shouted, pumping his fist in the air and rising to his feet.

This is standard Cruz rhetoric: He has five items on his “first day as president” checklist: repeal all of President Obama’s “illegal and unconstitutional executive actions”; investigate and prosecute Planned Parenthood; notify the Department of Justice and the IRS that they can no longer “attack religious liberty”; “tear up this disastrous deal with Iran” and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

“Now that’s a busy first day!” someone shouted, and Cruz’s self-conscious, thin-lipped grin came out as he nodded and started on the agenda for his second day in office. Obamacare: gone. IRS: abolished.  Common Core: cancelled. “Everyone will be able to do their taxes on a postcard,” because of his flat tax.

“If we get a president who appoints a left-wing judge…” Cruz said.

“Stone him!” came a voice from the crowd.

“I’m a true conservative!” Cruz shouted. Suddenly I understood something about Ted Cruz and his followers that I hadn’t clicked into before: The proof of Cruz’s merit, as a candidate, was that he he ought to be at the bottom. The proof of being “a true conservative” is that everyone is against him. Being hated is a mark of entitlement. 

Friedrich Nietzsche made the argument about the triumph of  “ascetic morality” and the Christian reevaluation of values 140 years ago in On the Genealogy of Morals. Imagine you feel oppressed by a culture and a political system that has consistently ignored you and the things you care about. (For today’s conservative, these values might include the definition of marriage as being “between a man and a woman,” the idea of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, or that life begins at conception.) Now imagine someone promised to overturn all of the prevalent values of the day in favor of your own, opposing values. For Nietzsche, this meant the value of being wealthy would be reversed into the virtue of being poor; the value of being proud would be upended by the virtue of humility; the celebration of the body would be transvalued into the virtue of sexual restraint. Having power, on this account, would mark the powerful as morally blameworthy; being powerless, by contrast, was a guarantee of righteousness. And this, according to Nietzsche, was the only way that a system so contrary to natural human flourishing as that taught by Christianity could have, and did, take such a powerful hold on our collective consciousness. These were the deep psychological roots of the Christian revolution that began over 2,000 years ago (and may now be coming to an end). Were it not for Paul, “We should scarcely have heard of a minor Jewish sect whose master died on the cross,” Nietzsche elsewhere observed. It was Paul and his astonishing insight into the psychological needs of the powerless of his time that accomplished this transvaluation of values, the very same psychological needs that Cruz hopes to tap into now. Of course Ted Cruz was despised by the ruling elite: so was Jesus.

It was only natural, indeed desirable that the media and the entire Republican Party had consistently fought against Ted Cruz, and he against them: He represents morality, which is the opposite of everyone at work in Washington today, everything we see in our degenerate age. But you, the voter, know what the truth is and so does God. That’s why Ted is winning against all odds. You feel resentment about the way this country is headed? So you should! Because the values represented by our leaders—even the values represented by the Republican Party—are the opposite of your values. You feel excluded, you feel ignored? You feel bullied, even hated? So do I!

He finished to wild applause and invited questions. News had broken of Cruz’s fraudulent “Voting Violation” mailers, which warned Iowans that their district had a shamefully low voter turnout and listed a voting “grade” alongside the recipient’s name and the names of their neighbors. One of the audience members asked Cruz to explain. Cruz said the mailers had been sent out since time immemorial, that one of the men who’d condemned him in the media had sent out the very same mailer. It was classic kindergarten Cruz: He admitted that he did it, but only because Marco Rubio did it first.

“That’s crazy,” I said to my wife. “He’s saying that two wrongs make a right. That’s the opposite of what he stands for.”

At the end of his remarks, Cruz changed a bit: He seemed more thoughtful, more determined, and less scripted, less polemical. His face opened and I thought I saw a gentleness in his eyes.

“I don’t care if it is Donald Trump who wins tonight,” he said. This surprised me. It was the first time I’d heard him consider the possibility that he might not take Iowa. 

A voice from the audience: “We’ll pray for him!” 

We all laughed, he came down off the stage for pictures, and my boot-wearing neighbor on the pew and her husband turned to me with radiant faces. “We’re not undecided anymore!” she said, before rushing up to meet him.

The day before, the Cruz campaign held a rally at the fairgrounds on the outskirts of Iowa City in a large white aluminum hangar that smelled like cow dung, sanitizing wash, and Skin So Soft. All of the folding chairs were taken, and behind the chairs, it was a tight, standing-room-only crowd. 

A hangar at the Iowa fairgrounds is exactly the kind of space Cruz should avoid: There must have been nearly 1,000 people in attendance. It had the circus atmosphere of a Trump event, but Trump knows how to stage these vaguely Wagnerian affairs—the grander the atmosphere, the more they glow. Cruz and his team do not glow. 

A few other things Ted Cruz should avoid doing: Shaking people by the hand in a crowd (he always looks past you to the next person); talking to a gaggle of reporters (he stays on script rather than relating to the particular individuals); telling jokes (he tends to be the only one laughing); hugging (no one wants a hug from Ted). This is starting to sound mean-spirited, but I understand where Cruz is coming from: He has a mild form of social anxiety disorder, we all sense it. People upset him. This is not an insurmountable handicap for a politician, but it is the real reason he is losing to Trump, despite the fact that his core message is aligned with the vast majority of the Republican base. He simply doesn’t like people. And, so it goes, they don’t like him.

In this way, as different as their politics are, Ted Cruz on stage reminded me of Richard Nixon—canny, but inept at the theater of politics. Cruz has an an air of persecution which, in a large setting, comes off as arrogance; he can be surprisingly charming when he lets his guard down. Cruz is the kid who gets picked on at school and tells himself that he’s unpopular because he’s smarter than everyone. I could see this vulnerability in Ted at 18, but at 45, I got the feeling the snot-nosed kid we’ve read about has had a lot of the snot beaten out of him. It was all too easy to imagine Cruz’s farewell address, if not during this campaign, then perhaps the next: “You won’t have Ted Cruz to kick around anymore!

At the Iowa fairgrounds, there was a run-up of speakers that felt cobbled together: Cruz’s Iowa campaign manager, the nephew of a member of Duck Dynasty, anti-immigration Congressman Steve King, and Heidi Cruz, enjoining us with a wife’s earnest but obviously furtive, unconvinced, and unconvincing optimism to “fall in love with Ted, like I did.”

Then Glenn Beck appeared—the crowd had been whispering he might be coming—and there was a widespread shift of disorientation in the room. Everyone went wild.

“Beck for VP!” someone shouted. 

Unsurprisingly, Glenn Beck is a tremendous public speaker. He appeals to the intellect like a talented elementary school teacher. For the past 20 years “we’ve really screwed things up. And it’s our fault...We keep sending clowns to Washington.” He was heavy on textbook U.S. history: Thomas Paine and George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Pearl Harbor.

What does he love about Ted Cruz? “Everybody in the press hates your guts!” There was wild applause and shouting. “Everybody on the Democratic side hates your guts! And all of your so-called friends hate your guts!”

All of your friends hate your guts?! I looked around, astonished, but the crowd was electrified. Everyone was on their feet, applauding and shouting. This was one of my favorite things about Ted Cruz’s campaign so far: He has made his persistent unpopularity—well-known even here in Iowa, a long way from Harvard, Princeton, or Washington, D.C.—one of his most winning strengths. 

Another step forward in my understanding of Ted Cruz. There are those of us who vote for the candidate we admire (Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders). Some of us go down to the polling station to vote for the candidate whose policies we endorse (John Kasich, Hillary Clinton). Some of us vote for the least of all possible evils, rather than the person we think will actually improve our lives (Marco Rubio). But what gets us into that voting booth more than anything else is the feeling of identification. He’s like me. I feel alienated, excluded, oppressed, even ostracized: Ted honestly confesses the same. I don’t trust the politicians in Washington: Everyone says that Ted, even though he’s a Washington politician, is hated by his fellow politicians. Do you feel excluded? So do I. So does Ted. And he has been excluded. And that’s a good reason to vote for him. He’s one of us.

Nietzsche argued in Beyond Good and Evil and The Antichrist that the greatest creative moment in Christianity—perhaps even the greatest creative moment in the history of human thought—was when the priest class realized that their power could come from celebrating the powerlessness of the mob. Misery loves company. Aesop’s fox and the sour grapes. Thanks to the internet and its overnight millionaires and twentysomething billionaires, the cresting of American luxury, the likes of which has never been seen before in human history, there are a lot of very sweet looking grapes being dangled in front of the electorate that are just out of reach.

The old Republican way of looking at the world, one might argue, divides it into good and bad, where Good is what is Good for me and mine (wealth, power, popularity) and Bad is what we do not and are not (the poor, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged, the unentitled). But this new Republican brand of Ted Cruz’s does not see the world in terms of Good and Bad—for Cruz, it’s Good and Evil, where Good is defined in terms of what is Not Evil. Evil is the rich, the liberal, the Academy, the East Coast and the West Coast, the foreigner. And we who are Good, we are the opposite of all that.

There’s an unsurprising and familiar symmetry between love and hate, and Beck exploited it effortlessly. When we love or hate, we establish ourselves as equals. We neither revere nor despise, we neither worship nor condescend. For people like us, for the good honest folk in Iowa, for Christians who care about the way this country has gone so far astray, Beck explained, Cruz was one of them. And importantly, like them, he was being ignored. Suddenly all of us were part of the same group, the Americans who no one else cares about, the Americans who know what’s right and wrong, but no one listens to them. This is the dialectic of Ted Cruz: either you are bullied, or you are the bully. The bully tells you what’s what; the bullied are morally superior.

Beck was savvy enough to sell this point hard—if you feel hated, vote for Ted—but he also had the psychological acuity not to linger on that point. As soon as we were whipped up into a frenzy of resentment, he changed gears. He went positive. Yes, Cruz feels like you do, but he is also a great man. Frequently and elliptically during his remarks, he did his best to compare Ted Cruz to George Washington (a reach, even for Glenn Beck). But he went back to Washington to tell the story of how he came home to write in his diary after signing the Constitution.

“This was the entry in George Washington’s diary: Finished the Constitution today. I pick up my copy of Quixote.”

Beck said the entry had puzzled him for years. But instead of drawing the obvious conclusion—Washington was acknowledging to himself that the creation of a constitutional democracy was an unambiguously quixotic enterprise—Beck asked his daughter to hand him a leather-bound volume, which he held in the air.

“This…is Washington’s copy of Don Quixote.” 

There was hysterical applause. The mood at the Iowa fairground had become pure theater, no longer having any relation to reality, let alone Ted Cruz’s campaign for president. Beck was supposed to introduce Cruz, but instead he took the moment to turn up his populist rhetoric. “The caliphate is coming … an Islamist needs to be killed!” And then Ted Cruz took the stage.

It was an unfortunate anticlimax felt by everyone in the room. Beck had charisma; Cruz did not. Beck could whip up a crowd; Cruz could not. Beck had George Washington’s copy of Don Quixote…well, enough said. Even Cruz could feel the change in the atmosphere, and he was clearly intimidated.

After thanking the previous speakers, Cruz tried to find his feet with some crowd-pleasers. He attacked the press, the Academy, and Hollywood. He did a long riff on duck-hunting with the Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson. At a bit of a loss, he threw in some Cruz standards: “And God is great…?”

“All the time!” shouted back the audience.

Still blinking a bit from the bright light of Glenn Beck, he launched into his very well-rehearsed stump speech. By the end, of course, he had found his game, and the crowd was with him—Cruz stayed to shake hands, sign posters and ball caps, take photos. A man surged past me with a copy of Glenn Beck’s best-selling book Common Sense in his hand, the title cribbed from Thomas Paine. He bumped into me and stopped to smile.

“Sorry,” he said. “I just really want to get this signed.”

One of the paradoxes of Ted Cruz is that despite the fact that he has never been accepted as a politician and, until very recently, real political success has eluded him, I think it is the political process itself—and, perhaps, his struggles to be accepted as a politician—that has brought out his more repellent qualities.

I recently had dinner at a Mexican resort with a prominent Republican oilman and he told me, “There’s nothing wrong with Ted Cruz’s policies, per se. I could just never vote for him as a man. There’s something nasty about the guy.” He went on to justify himself by mentioning Cruz’s acceptance of the endorsement from the virulent, psychotic anti-Jewish pastor Mike Bickle (who seems, at times, to recommend Adolf Hitler), but my friend wasn’t making a lot of rational sense, and he knew it. It was simple: He doesn’t like Cruz. And if you never see Cruz in person, if you only read about him in the news or see him on a debate stage, it’s true, he’s hard to like.

When people ask me about Ted Cruz, I tell them at first I didn’t like him at all, but as I’ve gotten to know him better, I find myself constantly vacillating. While following him in Iowa, my wife and I had identified a tick of Cruz’s—when we saw him in person, especially when there were few or no TV cameras around, he followed a routine when he spoke. He made a point he felt passionate about while poking his finger. Then he nodded sternly, making eye contact with people in the room. Then he smiled, and then he looked at a new member of the crowd, and he laughed. Cruz has an unusual and kind of endearing laugh. He pokes his teeth out and sort of seems to retract his neck into his chest like a frightened turtle. His head bounces a little, almost imperceptibly, and then he puts the teeth away.

Photographs by Danny Wilcox Frazier/VII

I’m describing it like it’s a bad thing. But it was curiously disarming. “He’s actually kind of cute,” my wife said. Cruz looks like a kid when he does it—a sweet, lonely kid, whose only friends are adults. He looks like the kind of kid who hangs out with the mom in the kitchen while all the other kids are playing games in the yard during a birthday party; the kid who was abandoned by his alcoholic father when he was just a toddler, only to be reunited with him two years later; the kind of kid who impresses his parents with a recitation of the Constitution. He looks like a lonely misfit.

Bertrand Russell, parroting Nietzsche, has argued that the desire to moralize is a desire for cruelty. If you’ll allow me a little armchair psychology, I suspect that it is Cruz’s failures in Washington—failures that began when he was passed over for choice appointments in the early administration of George W. Bush—that have solidified his worst qualities: his resentment, his anger, his hatred, his desire to fight back, his cruelty. All of those deeper feelings manifest themselves in the desire to moralize, to wave the banner of Christian conservative, to be the dogmatist ideologue, the one true good guy. 

At an event in Adventure Christian Church in a little town in Iowa, Cruz came in from the back, behind us. He walked through the audience, shaking hands on his way to the front. I realized I was accidentally standing in the receiving line. 

“Shake his hand,” my wife said.

When he passed me, I took his hand and shook it. He didn’t look me in the eye. My wife was behind us, filming the exchange and laughing. She was laughing more than was polite, in part because the atmosphere was getting hysterical.

He opened with his standard line-up of the five things he’d do on his first day in office. Move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and begin a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood. After each point, he did his routine: gaze, point, smile, teeth. Little tucked chin neck bob. My wife and I imitated him. Then something unusual happened.

We noticed that he was staring at us. Very clearly staring straight at us. As we—I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it—shamelessly mocked the odd way that he laughed. He had very clearly observed that we had been mocking him. More, he clearly cared that we were mocking him.

Of course it could have been in our imaginations. But in that moment, Ted Cruz became human. He was vulnerable, and for just an instant or two I saw a Ted Cruz who could be loved. Who you wanted to love. It’s a quality that both Rubio and Trump share that seems to have simply eluded Cruz so far: It’s important, at least sometimes, to be vulnerable. Yes, everyone wants a strong leader—and especially the Republican Party. But in all of his talk about being hated, being an outsider, Cruz never lets us know what that feels like: to be the wallflower, lonely guy looking for a few friends. He has, unfortunately, just the opposite tendency: He tends to make us feel like he doesn’t want or need our affection or support. And it was interesting, and maybe not so surprising, that it took being picked on to bring out this side of him. 

As we drove away from the event my wife turned to me. “I’m a little worried about Ted Cruz. He seemed a little down today. He said the whole point of getting elected is to be hated.” 

No one supposed Ted Cruz was presidential material before he won Iowa. Now that Cruz is the clear number 2 for the Republican nomination, it also seems equally clear—as clear as the mud of politics can ever be—that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. But one thing that I want to emphasize here, a point that I think is appreciated by many far-right Republican commentators but missed by people like me on the left, is that Cruz and Trump are fundamentally different candidates with fundamentally different sources of appeal. Trump supporters don’t care whether he is consistent or polite or cool or even particularly presidential. Trump supporters like Trump. In many ways, the Trump supporters of today remind me of the Obama supporters in 2008. Obama’s mantra: “Change!” Trump’s: “Win!” Cruz’s supporters, as I’ve emphasized here, don’t necessarily like the man, but I think they respect him. More importantly, they identify with him. And if you want to have your beliefs confirmed, he is, relatively speaking, consistent, reliable, even trustworthy.

At his Iowa victory speech, Cruz had on his politician mask. The aspect of Cruz that had appealed to me—the awkward kid, the nerd, the man who was upset when he saw we didn’t like him—was already gone.

Standing in the audience, my wife and I realized there’d been a tremendous, and perhaps crucial, upset, we sensed something we hadn’t picked up on before. Victory affects Cruz one way, and it affects his followers another. The speech went on and on, and so we decided it was time to go. Making our way out through the crowd, with Ted Cruz speaking, in our press badges, we perceived something new among Cruz’s supporters: hostility. This was the first time we had actually worn press badges during our time following Cruz, and so we could be identified as the enemy, and the enemy had just lost.

My wife said later that it was the first time she recognized the very real danger of Cruz’s candidacy. It was built, in subtle ways, on hate, on resentment. And when it gained momentum, those subtleties became unsubtle. And we could feel it. There was cruelty in the air, and it wasn’t coming from Cruz.

Whatever your worries may be about the possibility of a Trump presidency, perhaps you can take comfort, as I do, that the confusion of the Trump supporter is less dangerous than the conviction of the voters who support Ted Cruz. Trump supporters are looking for answers, Cruz supporters already know the answers. A fearful person may be made dangerous, but a cruel person is already there.