A megalomaniac hell-bent on bucking the political establishment to justify a personal crusade. Ted Cruz? Yes. But before Ted Cruz, history’s political master-of-disaster was Henry VIII. They might be related.
Back in the 16th century, Henry VIII was a Catholic married to Catherine of Aragon. By Catholic law, they were bound together for life. But Henry was more concerned about perpetuating his legacy than with sacred oaths of commitment. He needed a viable male heir, and Catherine was unable to provide one. He wanted a new wife.
At the time, the Roman Catholic Church was not only a religious organization, but also a powerful political machine with pervasive influence. Catherine was devout, popular and Spanish. A rejection of Catherine would be an insult to Spain, creating a political mess in the Catholic empire. Not surprisingly, Henry’s appeals to the Pope for a special dispensation to annul his marriage were denied.
That could have been the end of it. A less ambitious man may have conceded to the Church’s influence. But Henry rolled out a plan that was, by all intents and purposes, political suicide: he forsook the Roman Catholic Church and created his own religion. Henry established himself as the Supreme Head of the Church of England, and divorced Catherine.
His actions brought on rebellion, tumult and terror. Disfavored political advisers were executed. Thousands who refused to denounce Catholicism and pledge allegiance to the new church were massacred. It was a brutal upheaval fueled by one man’s egomania.
In the end, Henry VIII’s dream of male succession was achieved. He was succeeded by his son, Edward VI. But his creation of the Church of England has had a much more permanent and influential impact. The new church legitimized alternatives to Catholicism. Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, etc. are all Christian sects which share the same core beliefs that Catholics do, but allow for different interpretations and rituals to be accepted under the umbrella of Christianity.
Today, any gay Christian minister has Henry VIII to thank. Women ministers owe their livelihood to him. And any Christian who doesn’t feel obligated to go to Confession for using birth control owes it all to the former king. Henry VIII unwittingly encouraged constructive dialogue and paved the way for adaptation in what was thought to be the impenetrable political fortress of the Roman Catholic Church.
Intentionally or not, Ted Cruz is doing exactly the same thing to the Republican Party.
Like Henry VIII, Ted Cruz has grand personal aspirations. Cruz’s most likely goal is to earn the title of Supreme Head of the Free World, a.k.a. President of the United States. Although, since he was born in Canada, Cruz may need a special dispensation from the Supreme Court to allow him to run if he is not deemed a “natural born” citizen.
Ted Cruz and most Republicans share a strong desire to defund and/or repeal Obamacare. In fact, Ted Cruz and Republicans share many of the same core beliefs. But Cruz’s methods for achieving these shared political values have infuriated millions, both inside and outside of his party. Selected leaders of the Republican establishment are rallying for his political ex-communication.
That’s because Ted Cruz is deepening a schism in the Republican voting bloc, ostensibly weakening the Party. For Republicans to be effective, respectful, intelligent dialogue will have to prevail to provide reasonable legislation that appeals to a broader base of the Republican constituency, and (God forbid!) maybe even some Democrats. While this may be bad news for Republicans, it’s great news for Americans.
We are a nation whose elected officials oftentimes do not evaluate proposed legislation, but align themselves with the radicalized platform of their respective political parties. The Democratic Party is a powerful construct just as susceptible to fracture as the Republican Party today, or the Catholic Church of the 16th century. With history as a guide, it’s only a matter of time before a Democrat steps up and challenges the D.N.C.’s authority. We may then have political parties which legislate for the majority, tapping into the spirited innovation that defines our nation.
And America’s unlikely hero? Ted Cruz.