Salon: In the Tea Party 'Dunce-off,' Rand Paul Attracts Bigots, While Bible-Thumpers Love Ted Cruz

Digby is far from the biggest name in the left-wing blogosphere, but she's one of its most influential figures. Lefty bloggers often introduce links to posts on her site, Hullabaloo, with the phrase "what Digby said" (it's sort of their equivalent of "megadittoes").
On Monday morning, Digby published a piece in a higher-profile outlet, the liberal online magazine Salon, in which she contended that because Ted Cruz "has his finger on the pulse" of evangelical conservatives, he has a far better shot at the 2016 GOP nomination than does Rand Paul, even though Paul, Digby opined, should have no problem pulling in the racist voters that are (allegedly) so common on the right.


    ...[L]ast week...Senator Ted Cruz traveled to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and gave what everyone considered to be a fiery sermon about the gathering threat to religious liberty in America.

    That address was received much more raptuously than the last time a 2016 presidential hopeful appeared at Liberty U — when Rand Paul made his infamous Wikipedia-lifted “Gattaca” speech – and points up one of the two major battle lines between the two main contenders for the Tea Party primary. In this first skirmish, it is obvious that it’s Cruz who has his finger on the pulse of the Christian Right.

    But what’s that got to do with the Tea Party, you might ask?...Liberty U is the Christian Right, not the Tea Party.

    But that fundamentally misunderstands what the Tea Party actually is. It’s not a movement, it’s a brand. Or, more specifically, a re-brand that was formed in the wreckage of the Bush administration’s spectacular political flame-out when the True Believers badly needed to distance themselves from the GOP’s failure. It is simply the conservative movement in a tri-corner hat...  

    At the time the Tea Party allegedly sprang up out of nowhere the country was still reeling from the war in Iraq and a financial crisis that shook the economy to its core, so it naturally marketed itself around economic issues. Therefore, the Tea Party was assumed to be populated by people who cared little about social issues and defense and instead signaled the beginning of a new, highly motivated libertarian faction in the GOP. But polling showed the Tea Party largely overlapped with the Christian Right and the traditional Republican hawks. In fact, they are the same people.

    And it must be noted that the right wing of American politics is inherently reactionary...They could have called themselves the “Get Off My Lawn Coalition,” but Tea Party has a nicer ring to it...And one can see how both Rand Paul and Ted Cruz might feel they have a claim to these voters. But only one of them really does.

    ...Rand Paul...can certainly appeal to the right’s ongoing antipathy to our black and brown brothers. His history and rhetoric has proved his solidarity with those particular Tea Party/conservative movement values time and again.

    But Paul has a hard time speaking the language of the Christian Right even if he is largely sympathetic to their beliefs...

    ...Cruz, on the other hand, hit the right-wing sweet spot [in his Liberty speech]. He managed to wrap alleged Christian persecution in the Constitution and tie it up with a red, white and blue bow...

    Cruz might not be able to get a GOP majority to vote for him when it comes down to it. But he’s bellied up to the Tea Party and pulled up the three-legged stool of traditional conservatism to make his appeal. Paul is teetering on a pogo stick.

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Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Salon Digby Ted Cruz Rand Paul