If GOP Clown Car passenger Ted Cruz had anything to say about it, American democracy would be replaced by a harsh, patriarchal, merciless Old Testament style theocracy. Like the magistrates of 17th-Century New England, he has a reputation for administering punishment under the law with an iron fist.

If that seems difficult to believe, consider that as solicitor general for the State of Texas, Cruz went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to keep a young man in prison for 16 years – for shoplifting a $20 calculator. There were serious doubts about whether Michael Haley was even guilty – but prosecutors were hell-bent on making an example of him. Under normal circumstances, such a crime carries a two-year sentence, but because of arbitrary and questionable application of the state’s “three strikes law,” prosecutors pushed for the maximum penalty. When the error was discovered and a federal court ordered the state of Texas to credit the man for time served and release him, Cruz continued to fight in order to make certain Haley received the maximum punishment – and then some.

The story of the Michael Haley case reveals much about who Ted Cruz really is, as well as the kind of leader he intends to be if given the chance. He has become the darling of Christian evangelicals. However, Cruz’ record and his rhetoric demonstrate that he has no understanding of the values most strongly associated with the 1st-Century rabbi known as Jesus –  namely, compassion, mercy, charity, humility and forgiveness. These concepts are completely foreign to Cruz (whose last name, ironically, is Spanish for “cross”). Even hard-right evangelical politicians like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have some passing familiarity with those notions.

Not Cruz. According to him, the United States is under attack by the Forces of Darkness – which in his mind, is pretty much anything and anyone he can think of.  Cruz’ “Enemies List” includes not only Muslim terrorist organizations like ISIS (no mention of domestic Christianist terrorists), but also the federal regulatory agencies established to protect We the People, organizations such as Planned Parenthood, illegal immigrants, and of course, the Obama Administration. Like the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy, Cruz sees enemies everywhere, and he’s not above whipping up hysteria in order to advance his political agenda. He makes little or no distinction between the millions of law-abiding Muslims and the small subset of radical Islamist psychotics who commit acts of terror.  He openly accuses Democratic candidates of trying to destroy the country with “more socialism, more pacifism, more weakness and less Constitution.” Cruz calls for the “carpet bombing” of civilian areas controlled by ISIS, despite the fact that such tactics are prohibited under international law (he sure likes to “talk tough” for someone who never spent a day in uniform).

The bottom line: Cruz has learned what Corporate America and the so-called “mainstream media” have known for decades: fear sells. Ted Cruz is highly skilled at discovering what his audience is afraid of, whether it is Islamic terrorists, Big Government, socialism, the “gay agenda,” etc., and then exaggerating those fears to manipulate public opinion and win support.

The problem for Cruz is that the reasonable majority are tired of it. For a generation and more, we’ve had the message shoved down our collective throats that everyone is an enemy who is determined to destroy us. Increasingly, that approach is becoming less and less effective. It may be working with his supporters, but the rest of us – including moderate Republicans – are seeing Ted Cruz’ rhetoric and his agenda for what it is: complete and total bulls**t.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.