by Madeline Ramaley
Before Ted Cruz’s Town Hall in New Hampshire even began, the atmosphere in the Peterborough Town Hall was vibrant and patriotic. A giant American flag was set in the middle of the stage and large screens on either side flashed through commercials and ads endorsing Cruz. Dramatic music swelled in the background and surprisingly no one seemed to be phased by the fact the ads were addressed to “The People of Iowa.” As the political ads faded and country music began to play, the New Hampshire Speaker of the House and co-chair of Cruz’s presidential campaign, Bill O’Brien, came onstage to rally the crowd and introduce Ted Cruz. But before he did either, he led the entire audience in a pledge of allegiance. As everyone stood up and began to recite the pledge, it was very obvious that extreme patriotism and “Judeo-Christian values” were going to be a major focus of this event.
“God bless the Great State of New Hampshire!” Ted Cruz exclaimed as he strode onto the stage wearing a denim shirt tucked into his jeans, cowboy boots, and a dark leather belt. He began by praising the Republican Party for having so many “young, talented candidates” running for the presidency. He then immediately contrasted these candidates with the “crazy, socialist” contenders from the Democratic Party, which was very well received by the audience members, who cheered in agreement.
Cruz based his speech on returning to the “common sense principles” of America. He asserted that America is in a state of crisis because our Constitutional rights are being jeopardized. He claimed he wants to take America back to its “free market principles” and the “common sense principles;” he promised to do this through the application of his three main points, which he outlined very carefully. This made the speech very easy to follow and everyone in the audience was able to fully invest in what he was saying.
One of the core principles was providing jobs for the American people, which he claimed he would make his first priority as president. As he continued to speak on this subject he referenced a meme he saw recently, which I found especially interesting considering the majority of his audience were middle aged and not the sort of people one would expect to know about memes. The meme to which Cruz referred explained “Reaganomics” as starting a company out of your parents’ garage, and then decried “Obamanomics” as moving into your parents’ garage. This, of course, received great laughter from the audience. While everyone may not have understood exactly what a meme was, Cruz’s message came across clearly: he would be completely different from Obama as the second coming of Reagan.
Many times throughout the course of his speech Cruz compared the present political climate to the time before Reagan took office. He proclaimed that today’s America is very similar to that of the 1970s, and much like America then needed saving from Jimmy Carter, Cruz is the Reagan who will rescue us from Obama. In equating himself to Reagan in this giant metaphor Cruz appealed not only to voters who dislike Obama, but also to an older audience of voters who favored Reagan and strongly disliked Carter.
As his speech progressed, Cruz touched upon defending constitutional rights, notably the second and tenth amendments, adding “or as President Obama calls it, ‘the what?.’” He touched upon reserving power to the state governments, rebuilding the military, securing our borders, and repealing Common Core. His final point before turning to audience questions was the need to restore America’s international authority. He focused on the military, specifically citing the issue of women serving on the front line of the armed forces. He called it “dangerous” and “immoral,” claiming the United States has had enough with “political correctness,” especially within the military. He ended his speech by saying we needed to get away from political correctness and back to “common sense” in order to return to the “Judeo-Christian values” on which this country was founded.
Cruz then took a good portion of his questions from small children, who were seemingly planted by their parents. When asked by a child his views on improving America’s infrastructure, Cruz responded that all such decisions should be left to state governments and went even further to say that the entire Department of Education should be abolished. From here he said that the power should be given not only to the states to decide what should be taught in schools, but to local governments to decide what their specific region should teach. When asked by Emerson’s very own Ana Tenewitz on the “inequality of racial groups, the LGBTQ community, and women,” Cruz sidestepped the question and took the opportunity to discuss economic inequality again: “How do we deal with inequality? Number one, we end all the corporate welfare, all the subsidies, all the bailouts, all the mandates. But number two, we create an environment where small businesses are growing and advancing and there’s opportunity.” So, yes, while Cruz did talk about inequality, he ignored Ana’s actual question and morphed it into something he wanted to answer.
To conclude the Town Hall, Cruz asked the audience to “commit to lift this country up to continue this awakening and spirit of revival” and to bring America “back from the abyss.” Cruz was able to sway the Evangelical voters in Iowa with his Evangelical values, and it was made clear in his Town Hall that he planned to continue using this tactic throughout his campaign.
Whether you agree with Cruz’s policies or not, you can’t discount his intelligence. He is an extraordinarily convincing speaker, knows policy and the Constitution incredibly well, and was able to answer every question (though perhaps not directly) with knowledge and insight. His Town Hall was certainly interesting, “with liberty and justice for all.”