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The One and Only Thing You Need to Know About Ted Cruz

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The biggest stories in politics last week were Marco Rubio’s boots and Ted Cruz’s citizenship, which share the common thread of being utterly stupid. Fun human-interest stories about the candidates are one thing, but a relentless wave of stories about whether someone’s shoes are kind of girly is enough to drive you to find a deserted cliff to live out your days.

And while the media is still in the obsessive phase over whether Cruz is a eligible for the presidency (of course he is), few people are talking about an admission Cruz made that says. everything about the kind of president he would be.

Ted Cruz beats his kids, and he brags about it.

The debate over corporal punishment in this country is a lot like the debate over climate change. While there are fierce arguments on both sides, the science is long past settled. We know from study after study that spanking children sends entirely the wrong message to them, that it perpetuates violence, and that it is ultimately ineffective at improving behavior.

As the American Psychological Association writes on its website, “Many studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children.”

But at a campaign event captured on video by the Democratic research firm American Bridge, Cruz didn’t just admit he spanks his five year old daughter, he used it as the basis of a misogynistic joke about spanking Hillary Clinton for the right wing’s Benghazi fever dreams.

“You know, I’ll tell you in my house,” Cruz delivered in his practiced sing-song, “if my daughter Catherine, the five-year-old, says something that she knows to be false, she gets a spanking!”

I’ve got two kids, a two-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl, and let me tell you something about small children: They lie all the time. Ask my son if he needs a new diaper and he will say no 100 percent of the time no matter what’s in that thing. I just asked my daughter the last time she lied to me, and she reminded me about a bath where she lied about having washed.

It’s not just common; it’s normal, age-appropriate behavior for small kids to lie. Teaching them honesty is important, of course, and we certainly have consequences for consequential lies.

But hitting a child for telling a lie? That doesn’t teach a child not to lie, it teaches her to lie more to avoid getting hit. It teaches a child violence is the right way to resolve her problems. It teaches a child to fear her parents instead of loving and respecting them.

I’m not a perfect father by any means; I get impatient and angry too quickly (my daughter chides me for this all the time), and I yell when I shouldn’t. Parenting is hard, harder than you think if you haven’t done it, and the urge to do something to make your kids listen is familiar to all parents. Sometimes good parents lash out in anger when they shouldn’t.

But Cruz isn’t talking about lashing out in anger. It is his stated policy as a parent to punish a five-year-old child for lying with a physical beating. He believes, contrary to all evidence, that this is the right thing to do.

Where Ted Cruz was born doesn’t say anything about the kind of president he would be, but how he treats his children says everything.

Of course the fervent climate change denier would deny the sound science that says beating a child is wrong. The man who thinks he can end terrorism by carpet bombing cities filled with terrorism’s victims clearly has no idea when or how to use force to resolve a conflict. And you had better believe there’s a connection between hitting your small daughter for lying and believing women shouldn’t get to decide for themselves when they have children.

Spanking is still deeply ingrained in the culture of many American families. There are good and decent people, parents who want the best for their children, who spank their kids because they were brought up to believe it’s the right thing to do.

But we’ve studied this. We know what it does to kids. Ted Cruz, for all his cowboy boots and put-on, “aw shucks” demeanor, is a successful lawyer and politician. His wife was a partner at Goldman Sachs. These are sophisticated people who should know better than to hit a child.

Maybe they do. Maybe Cruz lies about spanking his kids to convince the spare-the-rod crowd he’s one of them. But I’m taking him at his word. He doesn’t just hit his daughter. He brags about it. He uses it as a set-up for jokes. You want to know the kind of president Ted Cruz will be? He’s happy to show you.

Written by

Opinion writer for @RollingStone and other fine publications.

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