We’ll keep this one short. Politico is trumpeting another supposed “get” against a Republican candidate.
Like the outlet’s earlier swipe at Ben Carson, this one manufactures a big pile of nothing from a little pile of nothing.
Politico promises to expose what Ted Cruz said “behind closed doors.” And what he said was that same-sex marriage is a matter for the states, and he doesn’t plan to make a “top-three priority” of “fighting” it if he’s elected president.
Here’s more of what he said, at a fundraiser on 9 December in New York:
During the question period, one of the donors told Cruz that gay marriage was one of the few issues on which the two disagreed. Then the donor asked: “So would you say it’s like a top-three priority for you — fighting gay marriage?”
“No,” Cruz replied. “I would say defending the Constitution is a top priority. And that cuts across the whole spectrum — whether it’s defending [the] First Amendment, defending religious liberty.”
Soothing the attendee without contradicting what he has said elsewhere, Cruz added: “People of New York may well resolve the marriage question differently than the people of Florida or Texas or Ohio. … That’s why we have 50 states — to allow a diversity of views. And so that is a core commitment.”
In short, Cruz articulated a position based on federalism. The federalist position accepts that states may have different conclusions about administering social laws. It also assumes that the central government should be restricted in terms of what it proclaims or enforces as a national posture on social issues. The United States doesn’t require conformity of thought or policy on same-sex marriage – or on divorce law or child-custody law or other arrangements of law relating to family or household formation.
What the U.S. does require is nationwide conformity of policy on freedom of religion and speech. That was the judgment of our Founders, incorporated in the Bill of Rights, and it remains superbly well formulated.
Notice that Cruz conveyed that specifically in his response, when he said defending the Constitution would be a top priority. He spoke just like the Framers of America’s Constitution.
Poor Politico now tries to take this passage and use it to imply that Cruz doesn’t mean what he says about same-sex marriage (he doesn’t think it’s a valid concept). The point of federalism — and freedom of religion and speech — is that the people of a state or locality can continue to believe that and live by it, even when other people disagree. The opposite is true as well.
Government doesn’t have to force a one-size-fits-all answer on every social question that vexes the public. In fact, it’s dangerous — even injurious — to get government started down the road of expanding its social-issues involvement. Keep government out of things as much as possible, especially contentious issues of belief and conscience.
Federalism is one of the main principles supporting this concept of “limited government.” Constitutionalism is another: the idea that the Constitution sets limits on what government – starting at the federal level – is even empowered to address.
Cruz is being true to his idea of government here. It’s that idea of government – the one articulated by America’s Founders, and at one time recognized by the great majority of Americans – that Politico simply doesn’t appear to understand.
Perhaps the writers and editors at Politico don’t realize how ignorant of those founding principles their little flyer against Cruz makes them look. (They’re in sympathetic company, it seems, with CBS’s Doug Gottlieb, who informed America on Sunday that the Second Amendment isn’t actually part of, you know, the Constitution Constitution. Howard Portnoy had that story for us earlier.)
But we can thank them for inadvertently bringing the topic up, and generating another teaching moment for thinking Americans.
After the failed attack on Ben Carson, CNN (!) suggested that what “initially looked like a disaster for Ben Carson could now be a major black eye for Politico.”
Perhaps the Politico swipe at Ted Cruz will have an even more useful effect: causing at least a few readers to actually think about the concept of limited, federal, constitutional government, and to learn – in defiance of their long years of indoctrination in the U.S. school system – what it is.