Ted Cruz (R-TX), presents a particular set of questions for African American voters in the 2016 presidential election. He’s the first candidate to announce for the GOP nomination, and yet the conservative firebrand has always remained in the polling mushy middle.
Cruz has never polled higher than 10% amongst voters, but has never dropped below 8th place in a field of 15 candidates. His positions on school choice, minimum wage and even healthcare are worthy of deeper inspection and analysis by Black Voters looking for an alternative way to view the relationship between the federal government and social ills.
On the other hand Cruz needs to convince black voters first, that his policy goals will be helpful, and second that he can actually accomplish any of them if he were elected.
Cruz is, to be charitable, not popular with his Congressional colleagues. He’s been described as a phony, the devil and a Jackass and that’s by REPUBLICANS. His scorched earth, government shut-down or bust methods have irked officials as ideologically diverse as Rand Paul, and Mitch McConnell to outgoing speaker John Boehner.
So should black voters decide to support the Texas Republican they need to know what they’re in for. These are three key questions that African American voters looking at a Cruz candidacy should ask the Texas Senator.
1. Will you repudiate your father’s statements on African Americans?
Campaign surrogates are a reflection of not only the campaign but the candidate themselves. When a surrogate goes on the attack, that’s usually at the behest of the campaign and tacitly accepted or at least tolerated by the candidate. When a surrogate screws up they are often fired or at least publicly silenced by the campaign.
Ted Cruz’s father Pastor Rafael Cruz has stated that the “Average Black” is uninformed and deceived , that Obama should be “sent back to Kenya” and that blacks “Need to be educated” about minimum wage.
While Senator Cruz’s office has repeatedly said that the Senator’s father does not speak for him or his campaign, he still deploys him as a surrogate at political events. And considering Ted Cruz has gone on record saying the Senate would be better with 100 more racist anti-Civil Rights senators it might behoove him to at least explain if not outright repudiate his campaign surrogate.
To put this in context, then Senator Barack Obama had to publicly repudiate his ‘spiritual father’ Jeremiah Wright for statements deemed offensive to the public so there is precedent for Cruz openly condemning his father’s views.
2. Will you explain how your School Choice policies would be implemented across the nation should you get elected president?
Senator Cruz is a huge advocate of Charter schools and School Choice, terms that are so open ended and vague that it’s hard to put a finger on what they mean in current public discourse. Does school choice mean vouchers? Charter schools in every district? Or does it simply mean the ability to move your child from and underperforming school?
Cruz is on record saying that New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio is trying to “throw young African Americans out of school” with his opposition to Charter schools. At the same time he has stood with Senator Corey Booker and Sheila Jackson Lee to expand school choice legislation in minority communities.
3. How do you propose to address issues of police brutality and accountability especially in shooting deaths?
Ted Cruz was one of the 2016 contenders to speak out after the violence that erupted in Ferguson Missouri in the wake of the shooting death of Mike Brown by Officer Darren Wilson. In a short Facebook post he called for calm, expressed concern for police and citizens, mourned the loss of Mike Brown’s life and stood up for journalists who had been jailed by local police.
This was in stark contrast to his statements a year earlier when he justified the use of “Stand Your Ground” laws to Sybrina Fulton when she testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In a similar level of vacillation Cruz was initially ambivalent about the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston this past June. Initially he questioned whether or not race was a driving factor in the assassination but within days after the attack he was returning donations from the Council of Conservative Citizens, a hate group cited by Dylan Roof in his pre-shooting ‘manifesto’.
Cruz penned an incredibly well thought out essay in April of 2015 for the Brennan Center for Justice laying out his views on improving the criminal justice system. He suggests eliminating redundant federal crimes, reducing regulatory crimes to misdemeanors, increasing the number of jury trials to limit the power of prosecutors and doing away with minimum sentencing statutes.
It’s not clear how Cruz would actually accomplish these policy goals, nor did he address how he would tackle racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Given that racial disparities in prosecutions and sentencing play such a large role in African American life, he should be willing to answer those questions specifically for black voters.
This article originally appeared online at NBC BLK.