Watching Senate-hopeful Ted Cruz speak Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention, it’s easy to see why he defeated his more formidable opponent in the primary. Sans podium, he paced the stage like a TV evangelist delivering an impassioned sermon. When he smiles, it’s authentic.
His sermon — or rather, his speech — was on Democratic spending and how it’s costing Americans their future. (You know, that old bag.) He pointed to the debt clock hanging in Tampa Bay Times Forum that stood at just under $16 trillion and asked, “How do we turn things around? How do we get America back to work? President Obama thinks the answer is more and more government. Government is not the answer. You are not doing anyone a favor by creating dependency, destroying individual responsibility.”
To drive home the point that less government makes people more driven and responsible, he told the story of when his father first emigrated from Cuba in 1957:
“When he came to America, no tenía nada, pero tenía corazón. He had nothing, but he had heart. A heart for freedom. Fifty-five years ago, when my dad was a penniless teenage immigrant, thank God some well-meaning bureaucrat didn’t put his arm around him and say let me take care of you. That would have been the most destructive thing anyone could have done.”
Most Latinos understand Cruz’s argument. If there’s any group of workers and dreamers in America who understands the virtues of individual responsibility and work ethic, it’s Latinos. Show me one person who puts in a harder day’s work than a Mexican produce picker or a Honduran day laborer? My own grandmother has told me stories of coming to the United States without knowing a soul and having to load an industrial-size printing machine by hand for hours on end. Because of her hard work, her hands were more rough and calloused at 35 than mine will ever be. Those hands have allowed my hands to write.
The idea that Cruz and the Republican Party are shoving onto Latinos is the same idea most Latinos know to be a myth: the idea that everyone is born equal and with equal opportunities. Sure, we’re born with equal rights, but not equal privileges. Mitt Romney and I, for instance, were not born equal: he was born the son of a governor, while I was born the son of a single-mother from Honduras who worked in a factory.
Historians often point out that the man who famously wrote that “all men are created equal” was born a Virginia aristocrat and held over 200 slaves — an inconvenient truth for modern-day conservatives who rely heavily on the Founding Fathers. What Jefferson should’ve said — but couldn’t, for obvious reasons — is that although all men are not created equal, all men are born with equal rights.
If all men were created equal, then I would have no argument against free markets, since everyone would have the same opportunities at achieving the same goals. If all groups were created equal, then it would be unjust to give one group more help than another.
But, as Harper Lee writes in To Kill a Mockingbird, “We know all men are not created equal.” Progressives know this, too, and so they try to set up programs that minimize the inequalities: affirmative action, Dodd-Frank, Obamacare and student loan reform are some of the more obvious methods.
Socioeconomically speaking, the wealth disparity makes some groups born wolves and the others sheep. Democrats want to build a higher fence, but the GOP feels there should be no fence at all. While some sheep become wolves through hard work and luck, most do not. Pointing to the number of people who escape poverty is like pointing to the number of voter fraud incidents. Saying “you can make it through hard work” because a few do is like saying “birds don’t fly” because a few don’t.
So don’t be fooled. Conservatives want to shrink government (the fence) in the name of freedom and fairness. But the system isn’t fair, and you’re only free to struggle for the rest of your life.
Most Latinos know this.