Ted Cruz said tonight that he would use federal immigration officers to round up and deport all 12 million people in the country illegally -- a markedly tougher stance that he has struck in the past.The Cruz campaign claims that this is nothing new:
“Yes, we should deport them,” Cruz told Fox host Bill O’Reilly. “That’s what ICE exists for. We have law enforcement that looks for people who are violating the laws, that apprehends them and deports them.”
The toughening stance comes after a disappointing, if narrow, third place finish in South Carolina on Saturday, with immigration hardliner Donald Trump strengthening his grip on the race.
“There’s no change here,” Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said late Monday by email.But that's not true:
Just five weeks ago, he explicitly rejected the idea of a “deportation force” of the sort proposed by Trump, who has unabashedly called for the federal government to actively round up people in the country illegally.I guess you can't blame Cruz and other Republican candidates for trying to imitate the most successful candidate in the race. But I've noticed that Trump's competitors imitate him only when he's being a right-wing hard-liner. They imitate him on immigration. And hard-heartedness toward Syrian refugees. And support for waterboarding. And indiscriminate bombing of ISIS strongholds.
“I don’t intend to send jackboots to knock on your door and every door in America. That’s not how we enforce the law for any crime,” Cruz told CNN’s Jake Tapper in Iowa.
They don't imitate him on promising to avoid Social Security and Medicare cuts. Or taxing hedge fund managers. Or questioning the Iraq War. Or disrespecting the George W. Bush presidency.
A lot of pundits believe that by combining heavy-metal conservatism with moderate or even seemingly liberal positions on some issues, Trump has created the secret sauce that makes him such an effective candidate. These pundits think Trump has exposed a widespread dissatisfaction with GOP orthodoxy among Republican voters -- if Trump can attack hedge funders or the Iraq War (or John McCain or Megyn Kelly), then maybe the GOP has been out of step with its voters all along. Maybe the party can never be the same after Trump's exposure of this inconvenient truth.
I disagree. I think Trump's rage and hatemongering are just so satisfying to GOP voters that they give him a pass on deviations from right-wing orthodoxy and attacks on sacred cows. Also, they may have mixed feelings about a few of issues (George W. Bush, the Iraq War), but they're not angry about the orthodox GOP positions on these issues.
In any case, I suspect Trump's rivals are right to shun his moderate stances. Trump can get away with heresy, but I doubt the rest of them can, Look at what happened to Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, or Jon Huntsman four years ago. You need to be willing to stir up the mobs as irresponsibly as Trump does to get away with this, and the rest of them won't quite go there.
So here's an irony: Every four years, Republican presidential candidates compete to out-wingnut one another, a competition that locks the eventual nominee into positions that are too right-wing for a general election. This year it's happening again -- but the candidate pushing the field to the right is the one who isn't really a dyed-in-the-wool conservative.
Trump ought to be pushing the field to the left on a few issues, but he isn't. That just doesn't happen in the GOP.