(Grand Old) Party Crasher: My Evening with the Cruz Family


Ted Cruz has withdrawn from the presidential race. (COURTESY OF GAGE SKIDMORE FLICKR)


One of the great things about being a student at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus is you could be eating a sandwich at Alan’s one day and meet a Republican presidential candidate the next. At least that’s exactly what happened to me. A week before the New York Presidential Primary, I received an email from CNN to all Fordham Political Science majors about an opportunity to attend a Town Hall event with controversial caricature and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. As a fan of “The Apprentice” and countless internet memes of him saying “YUGE”, I jumped at the chance. However, I was shot down as the event was unsurprisingly filled.

As a quasi-consolation prize though, I later received another email invitation from Anderson Cooper’s producer to an event with an even more stringent figure: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

I never liked Ted Cruz. From his Dr. Seuss-plagued filibusters (still waiting for my “Cruz reads Green Eggs & Ham” audiobook) to his stifling and blinding conservative values, he is the last person I want to be my Commander-in-Chief. While Trump may be an over-the-top showman, Cruz truly means business. After a long phone conversation with my Clinton-loving mother, I decided to go for it. Why not meet one of the most influential politicians of the last decade, walking arm-in-arm with his beautiful wife? I’d be stupid not to at least try.

Walking in was incredibly daunting, as I was surrounded by people who weren’t compatible with my political values. I identify with many groups, but the Tea Party is not one of them. I consider myself a moderate liberal, more closely aligned with Joe Biden than Bernie Sanders. I felt as if I was Al Gore going to dinner at Dick Cheney’s house. I was a true (political) party crasher!

However, I can’t say I was entirely comfortable being swarmed by voters whom, to my knowledge, support a party which thinks women’s reproductive health should be a topic of discussion and believes marriage equality isn’t something we, as a nation, should strive for. Nonetheless, engulfed by Republican men and women both very young and very old, I entered the promised land: Anderson Cooper’s studio.

Cooper introduced himself and joked, “As a lifelong Manhattanite, I’m surprised we found so many Republicans to join us tonight.” Audience members responded, in almost a conservative choir, “We’re from Long Island!” Born an hour out of the Hamptons in a Long Island suburb, my nervous laughter ensued. My childhood acting classes were finally paying off!

Then, the feverish CNN music starts to play, everyone claps and he entered. Ted Cruz, in the flesh. To my surprise, he was taller and less Muppet-like in person. Heidi and her team carry Cruz’s children to their seats where they watched their Dad talk about a possible Cruz-Rubio ticket, watching pornography with Supreme Court justices and his infamous “New York Values” comment, in which he criticized Donald Trump’s supposed left-leaning positions. During the first commercial break, Mrs. Cruz was escorted to a seat placed beside her husband, and then the night really began.

To say Mrs. Cruz exceeded my expectations would be a gross understatement. She was a formidable speaker, a passionate wife and, based on watching her interactions with her two daughters, Caroline and Catherine, a loving mother. As a Political Science major and someone who’s been involved in New York politics myself (I used to be a former Albany lobbyist for my hometown’s school district), I’ll be the first to say politicians typically put on a show and use smoke and mirrors, but the Cruz family was, in fact, a genuinely loving family.

Full disclosure: I did not like Ted Cruz before this event and I don’t agree with his policies. But, I’m glad to have had the opportunity to meet him and his wife because I got to see beyond, as my friend Monica Ratnaraj (FCLC ‘19) put it to me, “the man with the punchable face.” His policies may never change, but one thing is certain. That Wednesday night, I met Ted Cruz- a family man, with his own vision for America, and as someone who holds the tenants of family values and loyalty so dear, I can at least respect him for that.

I’ll never vote for, or even like, Ted Cruz, but at least I can say I had the opportunity to join him in singing “Happy Birthday” to his daughter Caroline. How many vehement Hillary Clinton supporters can say that? As my fellow Fordham Ram Donald would say, it was “YUGE!”