This first installment is a conversation with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Senior Editor McKenzie Taylor chats with Texas’ junior senator about gun control proposals in D.C., his decision to speak at the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention despite many other Texas Republicans bowing out, chances for GOP congressional candidates in South Texas, and why school choice is the litmus test for his endorsement in state-level Republican primaries.
MT: This is McKenzie Taylor here with Senator Ted Cruz. Senator, thank you so much for joining us. We so appreciate your time.
TC: McKenzie, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me.
MT: Absolutely. I would love to talk about the various gun control proposals that are floating around D.C. right now. We just saw Senator Cornyn, you know, a few hours ago. He’s on stage here at convention, the delegates had a lot to say, they booed him there. Walk us through what is on the table in D.C., and kind of what you could see happening with these proposals.
TC: Well, it’s not clear what’s on the table. And I’ve said I’m going to wait and actually see the text of something that is submitted, that I’m not going to judge a bill till I see the details. At this point, we have a one-page list of bullet points, and on something as fundamental as our constitutional rights, the devil’s in the details. I think there’s a lot Congress can and should do when it comes to violent crime. I was in Uvalde the day after that horrific shooting.
MT: Oh, wow.
TC: And I’ve been in too many of these. I was there in Santa Fe, I was in Sutherland Springs, I was in El Paso, I was in Midland, Odessa, I was in Dallas. It is horrific that we have monsters, that we have homicidal maniacs who commit these kind of terrible crimes. I think there’s a lot we can and should do. The problem is whenever there’s a mass murder, inevitably there are a bunch of voices of Democrats and the corporate media who all say do something, do something, do something. Well, it might surprise them to know I agree we should do something, but the something we should do really matters. And what works, what’s effective, is targeting bad guys, targeting criminals, targeting felons and fugitives, and those with serious mental illness who try to illegally buy firearms, prosecuting them, putting them in jail, getting them off the street before they commit those crimes. That’s how you stop these kind of horrific murders. And then on top of that, it is also making our vulnerable targets safer and more secure, in particular schools, enhancing the security at schools. And the most effective tool to do that is putting armed law enforcement in our schools so that if a lunatic comes and tries to hurt our kids, the first thing that lunatic encounters is an armed police officer who stops them before they hurt a child. Those are the steps that if we really wanted to stop these crimes, we would focus on doing. And I’ve repeatedly introduced legislation to do exactly that, to target the bad guys, to prosecute the felons and fugitives, to make our schools safer. And sadly, over and over again, the Democrats have filibustered that legislation; they block that legislation. Their approach is consistently to try to go after the right to keep and bear arms for law-abiding citizens, and that doesn’t work. Just as a matter of effectiveness, it is incredibly ineffective in stopping violent crime. You look at the jurisdictions with the toughest gun control laws, almost without exception, they have the highest crime rates and the highest murder rates. And gun control doesn’t work ’cause when you disarm law-abiding citizens, the criminals still have their guns but nobody can defend themselves. And so I don’t know what Congress is going to do, if anything. If we are focusing on criminals and stopping bad guys and making schools safer, I am enthusiastically in favor of it. But if instead we have Republicans teaming up with Democrats to undermine the Second Amendment and take away the constitutional right to keep and bear arms of law-abiding citizens, then I’ll fight tooth and nail to stop it.
MT: So speaking of law-abiding citizens, the NRA convention. You were one of the only Texas Republicans who still opted to go to convention when so many others bowed out. What was behind your decision?
TC: Look, I thought that was actually a very easy choice. I’ve spoken at a lot of NRA conventions, and I have to admit I’m tired of the cynicism. Whenever there’s a mass murder, Democrats and the corporate media immediately begin demonizing the NRA, begin treating it as if the men and women of the NRA are responsible for the psychopathic mass murderer. And that’s a lie, it’s an absolute lie. And it’s not just a lie in that nobody there is a violent criminal committing acts like that, but it’s even worse than that because it is the men and women at the NRA, it is law-abiding citizens, it is good guys with a gun who inevitably stop these lunatics. You know, I was in Sutherland Springs the day after that church shooting. I stood in that sanctuary while the pews were still thrown to the sides, while there was shattered glass everywhere covered with blood. I saw a cell phone shattered and covered with blood. I saw where an 18-month-old child was murdered by that evil bastard. And I’m sorry, anyone that murders an 18-year-old child, there is no other word for it but evil. That monster was stopped because an individual citizen, a guy named Stephen Willeford, a plumber, lived right down the street, he heard the shooting that Sunday morning. He didn’t go to the church, he was just at home. He heard the shooting. He went to his gun safe, he brought out his AR-15, and he ran down to the church barefoot, didn’t take time to put on his shoes. And he got behind a truck and he engaged the shooter. He called out and engaged the shooter. The shooter was wearing body armor and he was systematically executing the people in that church. The shooter came out to engage Stephen Willeford. And Stephen is an NRA rifle instructor, he knows how to handle a firearm and he put two rounds in the shooter. If Stephen Willeford hadn’t been there, that monster would have killed many more people that morning. Now, the Democrats and the corporate press are liars when they blame law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights for the conduct of homicidal maniacs. And so I wish everyone had made the decision to come to the convention. Donald Trump came and I came, and I saw President Trump, and I pulled him aside and said, thank you, thank you for being here. It mattered that you came, it mattered that you didn’t back out. You didn’t give in to the heat, to the criticism, because I think giving in to that gives credence to the lies of the Democrats and the corporate media.
MT: Absolutely. So earlier on stage you shouted out three South Texas Republican candidates, Cassy Garcia, Mayra Flores, and Monica De La Cruz. What do you expect to see in November for these candidates?
TC: I hope to see all three win. Mayra Flores obviously just won this week, and it’s a big, big deal. The district she won in South Texas, it has not gone Republican in over 100 years. I mean, it has been a Democrat bastion. And I gotta say, national Democrats are freaking out. They’re terrified. I think Cassy Garcia is a fantastic candidate. I think Monica De La Cruz is a fantastic candidate. I think the most likely outcome in November is we win all three. And if that happens, all three of those districts all along the Rio Grande, they had been Democrat for more than a century. And if we come out of November with three Republican members of Congress representing them, not just Republicans, but Hispanic women, conservatives. Look, Cassy I know incredibly well. Cassy was part of my staff for about 7 years. She was my South Texas director, she was my deputy state director. I’ve already done multiple rallies with Cassy. I’m going to be down in the valley helping all three, helping Mayra, helping Monica, helping Cassy, ’cause I think we win all three races. And it is a sea change. We’re seeing Hispanic voters in South Texas, across Texas and across the country, galloping towards Republicans because the policies of Democrats are failing them. Look, it is Hispanic working families who are seeing inflation skyrocketing or paying 100 or 150 bucks to fill up their truck or their minivan, who are seeing the cost of food, the cost of electricity, the cost of rent, the cost of homes, the cost of lumber, every cost going up. It’s Hispanic families and every family across Texas that’s dealing with crime and the rising crime rates because of the Democrats’ soft on crime policies. And the single biggest driver of South Texas turning is the chaos at the southern border. You know it’s easy for Chuck Schumer to sit in Manhattan and say an open border is great. Doesn’t impact him. You cannot be down in the Rio Grande Valley, you cannot be down in South Texas and see firsthand the human misery that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ open border policies have cost. You can’t see the prisons that are overflowing, the hospitals that are full, the schools that are overflowing, that the infectious disease rates that are going up. You can’t see the little boys and little girls who’ve been horribly assaulted by human traffickers, physically assaulted, sexually assaulted, young girls brutalized. You can’t see that human tragedy and defend the policies of this administration. I’ve done multiple roundtables down in South Texas. I remember one prominent Democrat elected official said at the roundtable, listen, if my party is the party of open borders, I can’t support that. Nobody who is seeing this disaster can defend it. So Chuck Schumer can from Manhattan, Nancy Pelosi can from San Francisco. But one of the things I’m really excited about, I’m looking forward to in January, seeing Cassy and Monica and Mayra standing up and arguing with Pelosi and AOC and all the rest of them about the disaster their policies are producing.
MT: You said school choice is probably the largest, you know, the biggest issue you look at when endorsing candidates, specifically here in Texas. Why among all the conservative issues that are important to Republican voters is that the litmus test for you?
TC: I think school choice is the civil rights issue of this next century. You know, if you think about all the problems we’ve got in society, whether it’s poverty, whether it’s crime, whether it’s healthcare issues, if kids get an education, many of those crimes largely take care of themselves. Many of those problems are much more likely to be solved. On the other hand, if kids don’t get an education, if they drop out of school, if they don’t learn, we know the poverty rate is going to be much, much higher. We know the crime rate is going to be much, much higher. We know that healthcare issues are going to be much more severe. You know, in my family, like most people’s families, education was the gateway to the American Dream. My mom was the first one in her family ever to go to college. She went to Rice in 1956, studied math, became a pioneering computer programmer in the 1950s. My dad, as you know, he came from Cuba in 1957, went to the University of Texas. Came here with nothing, was washing dishes making $0.50 an hour, but he was able to get an education and was able to climb the economic ladder, to work towards and achieve the American dream. And the Democrats… Look, there’s a political failure. Today’s Democrat Party is bought and paid for by the teachers’ unions. They are irrevocably opposed to choice because the teachers’ union bosses demand it of them. Now this is at the same time that just about every poll that is done of African American communities and Hispanic communities show anywhere from 60, 70 to even 80% support for choice. The Democrats who claim they give a damn about those communities are willing to leave those kids trapped in failing schools. I point it out a lot of times. I’ve said, listen, school choice, the rich and middle class have always had it. If you’re wealthy, you’re going to be able to get a good education for your kids. If you’re wealthy, the school down the street that you send your kids to, if it had a 50% dropout rate, if of those kids that graduated 70% couldn’t read at grade level, if you had drug dealers walking the halls and little girls getting sexually assaulted in the bathrooms, if you have resources, your kid would be gone the next day. You wouldn’t leave your kid in a school like that. You would either pay the money for tuition for a private school, or you’d pick up and move to another neighborhood that had a better public school. But you would use the resources you have to give your kid hope and a chance. School choice is about saying you know what, low income kids deserve that same right. If you’ve got the right to save your kid, don’t tell the single mom in the inner city that her children, her babies have no hope, her babies have no escape, her babies have no chance at the American Dream. I think this issue matters fundamentally and profoundly. And I gotta say, you know, my approach, virtually every US senator stays out of state elections and stays out of state primaries. Frankly, if you’re an elected statewide official on the federal level, it is stupid to get into primaries. So every time I do this, I am hurting myself.
TC: If you make an endorsement in a primary, here’s the typical pattern you have. You get half their friends and all their enemies, so whoever you endorse against, they hate you forever. There’s a reason that you don’t see any other senators doing this, because you make a lot of people mad when you stick your nose into a contested primary in your state. I usually stay out of issues in Austin. I figure I got enough battles fighting Biden and Harris and Pelosi and Schumer that I don’t need to be in the middle of every battle in Austin too. The one big exception I make is for school choice, and I engage in a lot of primaries in Texas state races. And my team literally makes an Excel spreadsheet of every vote on school choice. And it’s real simple. If you have voted against choice, the chances that I will support you are essentially zero. If you voted for it and you otherwise have a reasonable and conservative record, the chances that I’ll support you are pretty good. And there are a whole bunch of contested primaries where I’ve engaged on that basis. And this last cycle we saw a bunch of champions who had the courage to defend choice win. Now, I’m glad that we’re going to have more champions in the legislature in January. But I also hope that this becomes an encouragement even to those folks in whose race I didn’t get involved. I hope it is a carrot and a stick. I hope that we’ll see some Republicans saying, you know what, maybe I wasn’t going to vote for choice before but I’m not sure I want to pick that fight. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with folks deciding, let’s do the right thing, let’s actually make a lasting difference for kids. I can tell you before I ran for Senate, I told several people, I said if I am dead and gone, if my tombstone says that I made a meaningful difference in bringing about school choice for the kids of Texas and the kids of this country, I’ll die a happy man. That is a legacy to be proud of. It matters for the future of our state and the future of our country.
MT: Senator, thank you so much for taking the time. It’s a busy week, we so appreciate it.
TC: It’s great to be with you.
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Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.