The Corner

Ted Cruz and How the Left Whitewashes Its Own Radicalism

I know, I know — the whole “Ted Cruz is Joseph McCarthy” meme is so five days ago (or maybe not), but I’m just now catching up. As a contemporary of Ted Cruz at HLS, I simply can’t let the Left get away with its response to now-senator Cruz’s allegedly-McCarthyite 2010 luncheon speech in Austin, Texas. Here’s what The New Yorker’s Jane Meyer reports he said:

 He then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”

Shock! Outrage! Echoes of a dark and dangerous past!

To be clear, the people he’s describing — the “crits” or practitioners of “critical legal studies” — were not members of the Communist party. They were, however, Marxist-influenced, highly-authoritarian, radical-redistributionist, anti-capitalists who thoroughly outnumbered conservative faculty and openly loathed America. (I’d say calling them small “c” communists is pretty darn accurate). Even worse from an academic standpoint, many of them were so full of venom and rage that they worked to shut down discourse on campus, and encouraged student followers who shouted down conservatives and even sometimes tried to sabotage conservatives’ future job prospects (radical students organized efforts to call judges and law firms to pressure them to revoke job offers). Protests rocked the campus when “crits” weren’t hired, and students repeatedly stormed the administration building in support of their favorite radical professors.

My 1L year — just before Ted Cruz arrived — the climate was so toxic that my first effort at pro-life advocacy (informing students they had a right to a refund of the portion of their health services fee that funded elective abortions) prompted some of my leftist classmates to write to me directly: “Why don’t you go die, you f**king fascist.” Or, more directly: “Die.” When a member of the Federalist Society wrote an “offensive” article about gay rights, students pasted his face on gay porn and posted pictures across campus.  

All class, those future leaders of America.

Radical professors cultivated their radical students, and they’d often travel in packs — like a rapper and his worshipful “crew.” I once experienced the exquisite joy of a “crit” professor responding to rather civil point I made in class (that I’d prefer that she not call an unborn child “a clump of cells”) with a loud shriek rather than an informed response — a shriek that was soon echoed by her student cheering section. 

How radical was HLS in those days? So radical that even liberal GQ magazine wrote an article called “Beirut on the Charles” highlighting the prevalence of wild-eyed extremism on campus. So radical that Elena Kagan’s subsequent tenure as dean represented a breath of moderating fresh air — so moderating that many HLS conservative alumni have real effection for her.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is how the Left whitewashes its history. The Left has a shameful recent history at HLS — a history of intolerance, repression, and character assassination. In fact, HLS’s current relative moderation and civility represents a tacit admission from those holdovers from the 1990s that they went too far. Yet rather than deal with this history honestly, the Left describes its instigators as mere “social democrats” (as if we were dealing with François Hollande-on-the-Charles), while Senator Cruz is dangerous for condemning anti-American radicalism.

Up is down. Black is white. Right is wrong. And Ted Cruz is a McCarthyite.  

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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