Ted Cruz’s McCarthyism and the Christian Right

The wonderful Jane Mayer recounts an Americans for Prosperity rally she covered in Texas two and half years ago, at which now-Texas Senator Ted Cruz “accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there” in the early 1990s. The revelation of these baseless, McCarthy-esque accusations sheds light on the origins of Cruz’s baseless, McCarthy-esque questioning of Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel. (The best part of Mayer’s piece is the bewilderment of Charles Fried, a Republican who served in the Reagan administration and later taught Cruz at Harvard, who diplomatically told Mayer that Cruz’s statement “lacks nuance.”)

Mayer adds:

[Cruz] then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”

Cruz’s communist conspiracy theories pre-date his Tea Party associations; in 2009, he gave an interview to Marvin Olasky, editor of the evangelical WORLD magazine, and former provost of The King’s College in New York City. In the WORLD Q&A, Cruz made the same accusation about Obama and Harvard:

Q: Then on to Harvard Law School: What was that like? Understanding Harvard Law School is very important to understanding our president, Barack Obama. He is very much a creature of Harvard Law. To understand what that means you have to understand that there were more self-declared communists on the Harvard faculty than there were Republicans. Every single idea this president has proposed in the nine months he’s been in office has been orthodox wisdom in the Harvard faculty lounge.

Q: Why are they so far to the left? The communists on the Harvard faculty are generally not malevolent; they generally were raised in privilege, have never worked very hard in their lives, don’t understand where jobs and opportunity come from. If you asked the Harvard faculty to vote on whether this nation should become a socialist nation, 80 percent of the faculty would vote yes and 10 percent would think that was too conservative.

About a year later, in 2010, I heard Olasky interview David Noebel, one of the leading lights, as it were, of the Christian anti-communist movement and founder of the “Christian worldview” educational organization, Summit Ministries. Olasky hosted Noebel for an audience at The King’s College (the evangelical former home to the disgraced Obama conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza). The pair recounted the Cruz comments about Harvard with noticeable glee, and Olasky was so admiring of Cruz that he predicted he’d be a “future president of the United States.” About Harvard Law School, Noebel added, Cruz “told you the truth about who’s involved there.”

Noebel would know about how to make wild accusations about the “red menace” in the halls of power; in his book, You Can Still Trust the Communists To be Communists (Socialists and Progressives too), a 2010 reissue of the 1960 edition by the Christian anti-communist Fred Schwarz, who died in 2009, Noebel extensively quotes the Cruz WORLD interview to explain how Obama “has been swimming in radical, shark-infested Socialist waters for much of his life.” Noebel also insists that “most Americans are totally unaware that the US House of Representatives crawls with a large, well-organized assembly of Socialist organizations,” and that these organizations “quite literally comprise a Socialist Red Army within the very contours of the House of Representatives.” This is all owing to members of Congress not adhering to Noebel’s “Christian worldview,” which he claims is locked in a cosmic conflict with other “worldviews,” specifically Islam, secular humanism, Marxism-Leninism, cosmic humanism, and post-modernism.

In the WORLD interview, Cruz took care to point out that he “was raised a Christian and came to Christ at Clay Road Baptist Church in Houston. In terms of political views, I’m a plain and simple conservative: I’m a fiscal conservative, I’m a social conservative. I think there are absolute truths about what is right and about what works.”

In the postscript of his book, Noebel asserts that Schwarz “greatly influenced the newly rising conservative movement that ultimately produced leaders” including Ronald Reagan, James Dobson, Olasky, Tim LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Bill Buckley, Jerry Falwell, and others. Perhaps he can now add Cruz to that list.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email