I am a Republican political consultant in Texas and openly agnostic. This causes me no end of personal and professional grief, but I was raised to first, be true to thy own self. Unlike many atheists and other non-religious Americans, I do not fight, argue, condemn or otherwise judge Christians.
As a constitutionalist rooted in the intellectual traditions of Locke, Mill and Jefferson, I recognize that the greatest bulwark protecting my freedom not to practice religion is the freedom for Christians and others to practice theirs. Liberty is not a finite pie that requires that one group be squeezed out to accommodate another. My fiancé is an evangelical, so are most of my family, friends and clients. There is room for all of us so long as we respect the axiom that liberty requires tolerance.
Earlier this year I endorsed Ted Cruz for president. In fact, I have sign waved, attended a rally and publicly advocated for his candidacy. As a professional political operative I have stood in awe of his campaign. It has been brilliant. From fundraising to organization-building, message strategy to debate performances Cruz has been quietly and effectively building an organization of evangelicals, libertarians, Constitutional conservatives, federalists, defense and fiscal hawks that is unrivalled.
He has combined his adroit political skills with his outsider credibility to appeal to a broad swath of Republican primary voters that is now beginning to bear fruit. His Iowa plus the South early primary strategy is the most likely path to the nomination that any candidate has undertaken. I am generally proud to support him and I share most of his core philosophical beliefs.
Given all of this, I was staggeringly disappointed when I read his comment that atheists are not fit to be president. On one level, it is just bad politics. Cruz has aggressively outreached to libertarians in order to peel them away from Rand Paul’s flagging campaign to great effect. I am one of them. Surely he knows that even most Christian libertarians believe that tolerance and grace are essential to a free society. On a more personal level, Ted Cruz is a well-educated man and must also know that morality and ethics predate Christianity by thousands of years. The idea that a non-Christian cannot be trustworthy, wise, prudent and decent is as absurd as the assertion that all Christians are.
Senator Cruz’s father, Pastor Rafael Cruz, has said some wildly hateful and ignorant things since becoming a public figure, comments that would doom his son’s presidential ambitions if they had sprung from the senator’s mouth. This comment dances too close to that line.
I will continue to support Ted Cruz for President because I don’t have to agree with him about everything and I don’t need him to personally approve of my beliefs. I support Ted Cruz because economic liberty is fundamental to the maintenance of a free society. We need a middle class with the resources and free time to push back against government’s natural tendency to grow bigger and more oppressive over time. Absent that, all of the other debates become academic.
But be warned Senator Cruz, when you call 23 percent of the American people lesser than you, you are practicing the politics of division that we so often attribute to the left and you are endangering the delicate coalition that you have so assiduously built.