How the unpopular (toxic) Cruz was elbowed out of the way by the People’s candidate, Donald Trump, who done it and why it matters to democracy

Ted Cruz came to the Senate in 2012 in a wave of Tea Party candidates, an organized, well-funded “grassroots” expression of popular rage that exploded onto the national scene as a protest against Obama’s dictatorial plan to expand health care insurance coverage for struggling Americans. The Tea Party was fueled by the lie, funded by the same super-wealthy folks, that Birtherism was a true fact, that Obama was not only Black, and a secret Muslim, but not even eligible to have run for president, having been born in Africa. He was illegitimate and a liar.

Into this Tea Party Congress stepped the highly intelligent, ultra-right, former Ivy League debating champion Ted Cruz, the right wing billionaires’ obvious choice for president in 2016. He was the last man standing, before his billionaire backers the Mercers saw that Cruz couldn’t win the nomination, threw their money behind Trump, and put their network at his disposal, including ultra-right wing strategist Steve Bannon and supremely brazen attorney Kelleyanne Conway. Bannon and Conway, it should be noted, were both revealed to be members of the Council on National Policy. Bob Garfield and Anne Nelson, researcher and writer who exposed the powerful, secretive, nonprofit CNP, discuss:

GARFIELD: All right. Let’s now turn to the more-or-less present: the rise of Trump and the now violent assault on democracy. How was CNP involved in Trump’s ascent?

NELSON: The CNP was involved with Trump, initially, very reluctantly. He wasn’t one of them, he had no particular religious background, he was multiply divorced, and he really didn’t reflect their values in many ways. Their favored candidate was Ted Cruz, but they had a problem – which was that Cruz had a tremendous charisma deficit, and as he lost the primaries, they realized that either they supported Trump, the primary victor, or they lived with Hillary Clinton’s presidency, which was unacceptable to them.

GARFIELD: Oh, I – I’m sorry, I just – I just have to interrupt to remind you what then Senator Al Franken (laughs) said about Cruz.

AL FRANKEN: I probably like him more than most of my other colleagues like Ted, and I hate him (laughs).

NELSON: That is the case. Cruz is a formidable intelligence and strategist. He was not a winning candidate outside Texas. So the fundamentalists convened something, like, a thousand leaders and representatives in New York City in June of 2016 at the Times Square Marriott. They brought Trump out to parade him before them, and they had a number of leaders from the Council for National Policy there on the program. And publicly, what that event was about was to sell Trump to this thousand fundamentalist leaders, many of whom had been Never Trumpers, and they were like, “This is going to be your guy. You need to go home and tell your flocks that this is the plan.” But the second part of that agenda involved meetings where they cut a deal with Trump. They said, “You don’t have a war chest, you don’t have ground troops for the election canvassing, you don’t have a strategy. And all indications are you’re going to get creamed.” So we have all three of those that we can put into your service. But in return –

GARFIELD: We have a shopping list. 

NELSON: We have a shopping list, and it’s basically got three items. The first one was enact some of our policies by executive orders. So when suddenly the Republican platform has this new anti-trans, anti LGBT language that was literally written by the president of the Council for National Policy, Tony Perkins, Trump enacted the anti-trans policy for the Pentagon against the Pentagon’s wishes, which, you know, the Pentagon said, “This is disruptive of our operations and trans people are not a problem,” but Trump had to deliver on his deal. The second part was to create an evangelical advisory council. Obama had a religious advisory council, but it included Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims. This one was 100% Protestant, and none of these other religions needed to apply. The leadership of this council were in and out of the White House on policy discussions and photo ops on a weekly basis. The third was by far the most important, far reaching, and devastating to our democracy. And that was when they got Trump to agree that any federal judges he nominated would be approved from a list that was submitted by three organizations run by members of the Council for National Policy. These were the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, and the National Rifle Association. Now, what business the NRA has in recommending federal judge nominations? I do not know, but that’s how it played out, and after his first confirmation, he invited the representatives of these groups, most of them from the Council for National Policy, for a little victory luncheon at the White House.

GARFIELD: So that was the origin story of Trump’s deal with the devil, a man with not only no religion, but no ideology to speak of creating himself in the image of his political and financial sponsors. Over the ensuing – well, so then he was elected, more or less – and then over the ensuing four years, many of Trump’s 30,000 lies, big and small, find their provenance, what do you know, in the CNP. So, can we just tick a few of these off beginning with the COVID hoax, and the savior drug hydroxychloroquine?

NELSON: So if you get to the beginning of 2020, the Trump campaign is in trouble and the Council for National Policy recognizes it. They had hoped that the 2020 elections would be won with a popular vote, that was cast into doubt. COVID set in a couple of months later, and the whole strategy of the Trump campaign had been built around mass rallies and data harvesting from attendees of the rallies and building on that to secure a victory.

Well, mass rallies became impossible because of COVID restrictions, so there was a critical phone call that involved the president of the Council for National Policy and members of the Trump campaign staff, where they said, “We need to open up society, get the economy roaring again, and people are afraid of COVID, but they trust doctors. We have a group of doctors who will say that COVID is a hoax, will argue for the reopening of society and the mass rallies.”

So that summer, these doctors were convened by Jenny Beth Martin in Washington. Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots and a leading figure in the Council for National Policy. At that point, the point person – when Dr. Simone Gold announced that hydroxychloroquine was a cure for COVID – she was put on partner media platforms of the CNP, including the Charlie Kirk Show and the Christian Broadcasting Network, spreading this disinformation 

SIMONE GOLD: With the tyranny of medical apartheid nipping at our heels, rise up. Rise up. Rise up.

NELSON: And that has now expanded into a small army of unethical physicians who are continuing the hydroxychloroquine hoax. They’ve added ivermectin as a cure and, in fact, they have online prescription services charging money to people who are ordering ivermectin as a COVID cure.

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As for the man Trump rebranded as Lyin’ Ted, who kicked off the January 6th MAGA “Green Bay Sweep” to keep Trump in office, after days of yelling about “unprecedented allegations of massive electoral fraud,” he’d narrowly held off a challenge for his Senate seat by Beato O’Rourke in 2018, as the New York Times noted:

Republican strategists and insiders said Mr. Cruz’s narrow victory did not mean that Democrats stood to make substantial gains in Texas. Rather, they believed it had more to do with Mr. Cruz himself, one of the most divisive political figures in the state, and the anti-Trump energy of Democrats.

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here’s a highlight reel on brilliant, unlikable Ted’s nuanced, evolving views of Donald, compiled by the staff of Meet the Press (I was somehow thwarted from posting the clip I filmed in its original form, but here is my free ad for the NBC show starring Chuck Todd, in an audio workaround)

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