Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) will not be challenging Donald Trump’s nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be putting up a fight.
Cruz has already started instructing his 564 delegates to seize control of the party platform and to refuse to allow Trump to shape policies on issues including women’s reproductive health and LGBT rights.
In an email to his convention delegates on Sunday, a Cruz aide wrote that it was “still possible to advance a conservative agenda at the convention,” according to the New York Times.
The effort is being led by two icons of the radical conservative movement, whose previous positions on issues can shed light on what Cruz delegates’ platform priorities might be. Tony Perkins, who heads the extreme socially conservative Family Research Council, has compared homosexuality to pedophilia and has said that same-sex marriage is responsible for “havoc in our homes and blood in our streets.” And Ken Cuccinelli, Cruz’s delegate wrangler, lost his bid to become Virginia’s governor when he ran a campaign crusading against sodomy and protections for LGBT people.
Though the platform is largely symbolic — nothing will hold Trump to following it during the general election or during his potential presidency — Cruz backers see the platform as a place where they can still exert control.
“This is about protecting movement conservatism,” Cuccinelli told the New York Times.
With a nominee whose position on issues seems to change day-to-day and who has expressed support for some nontraditional conservative positions, Cruz aides are planning to be the dominant forces to steer the platform toward these extreme conservative positions:
Restricting Abortion For Rape And Incest
For Perkins and other evangelical Cruz supporters, Trump’s lack of a clear position on abortion and his support for Planned Parenthood are alarming. The presumptive nominee was once pro-choice and has changed his mind on multiple occasions throughout his campaign on reproductive health issues. Last month, he took five different positions on abortion in three days.
Meanwhile, Perkins’ Family Research Council and other religious conservatives vehemently oppose a woman’s right to get an abortion. And Cuccinelli has fought for an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. The Republican Party platform in 2012 said that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” and that the party supports a “human life amendment” to the Constitution, among other anti-choice policies. Cruz supporters backed by Cuccinelli and Perkins will want to keep that language intact or even expand the restrictions.
Cuccinelli supports transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions and has donated thousands of dollars to crisis pregnancy centers that lie to women about their options and often force them to get sonograms.
The 2012 Republican platform applauded the “many states that have passed laws for informed consent, mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation.” In the four years since the last election, Republicans have pushed on the state level for transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, and including mention of the invasive, unnecessary medical procedures in this year’s agenda may be a priority.
Transgender Bathroom Access
Trump has not taken a strong position on the transgender bathroom access issue which is tearing apart his party. In general, he infrequently speaks about LGBT issues like same-sex marriage — he said in an interview earlier this year that he is committed to striking down the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the country, but he hasn’t spoken about the issue much in the time since.
But many evangelical conservatives are committed to fighting that decision and maintaining mentions of “family values” in the Republican Party platform. And as the issue of rights for transgender people becomes more of a political issue, social conservatives are eager to shape the platform to allow discrimination.
“We want to have girls go in girls’ bathrooms,” Cuccinelli told the New York Times, adding that the delegates should consider language regarding transgender bathroom access.
With a nominee who is not religious and has openly attacked the religious right, Cruz backers are concerned that the party platform will not protect their so-called right to “religious liberty.” Cruz ran a campaign strongly in support of allowing state-sanctioned discrimination — his Religious Liberty Advisory Council released a 15-point platform for preserving “religious liberty” earlier this year. And both Cuccinelli and Perkins have long histories of supporting discrimination against LGBT people.
Cruz also signed a pledge when he was still in the race to push for the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would use the guise of “religious liberty” to give individuals and businesses the right to openly discriminate against LGBT people. The pledge was supported by the Family Research Council and other groups that backed Cruz’s campaign.
In 2012, the Republican Party platform contained no mention of “religious liberty” — both because it was not a term in wide use at the time, and because the major battle was still being waged against same-sex marriage. But conservatives have said they will push to have the First Amendment Defense Act and other mentions of religious liberty included in the party platform this year.
As Virginia’s attorney general, Cuccinelli pushed to uphold a medieval-sounding anti-sodomy law in his state and opposed court rulings finding it unconstitutional. The law would have instituted felony punishments for any person that “carnally knows in any manner any brute animal, or carnally knows any male or female person by the anus or by or with the mouth, or voluntarily submits to such carnal knowledge.”
Cruz hasn’t had direct involvement in any anti-sodomy laws — he remained silent as solicitor general when Texas took the issue to the Supreme Court in a landmark case — but many of his evangelical supporters and delegates likely support Cuccinelli’s crusade.
Cruz and Cuccinelli are both ardent climate change deniers. As part of his efforts to cast doubt on climate-change science, Cuccinelli used his position as Virginia attorney general to launch an inquisition against a former University of Virginia climate scientist, but a circuit judge and then the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against his efforts. He also failed in bringing a legal challenge against the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
The only mentions of “climate” in the 2012 party platform were in a section on national security. “The word ‘climate,’ in fact, appears in the current president’s strategy more often than Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radical Islam, or weapons of mass destruction,” the platform read. The section on the environment also had no mention of the changing climate, reading instead: “The environment is getting cleaner and healthier.” Cruz delegates, instructed by Cuccinelli, are likely to fight to keep that omission.