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Ted Cruz may see himself as a modern day William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce
Bridgeman Art Gallery, Wilberforce House

Sometimes the sort of movies that impress a person will illustrate his or her character. In a February 21, 2014 profile in Politico, Ted Cruz opened his mind about one movie he found memorable.

“During one of our conversations last year, I asked Cruz about his favorite movies, and in addition to a couple of classics—The Godfather, The Princess Bride—he mentioned Amazing Grace, a 2010 drama about the effort to end the British slave trade that’s become popular in Tea Party circles.

“’The abolition movie?’ I asked.

“’Yes, about William Wilberforce,’ Cruz said. ‘It’s an incredible story about a member of Parliament who fought for his principles, and when he began, he was almost entirely alone. And conventional wisdom in the British Parliament was there was no way to stop the British slave trade. And Wilberforce endured enormous criticism and animosity and yet, over the decades, stood resolutely for principle and transformed not only Britain but the world, by succeeding at long last in abolishing the unspeakable evil that was the British slave trade.’

“’So, why do you like it so much?’ I asked. I’d been following him around for more than three hours by this point, pelting him with sometimes frivolous questions, and I wouldn’t have resented a flash of annoyance at what was obviously a trolling follow up. But Cruz remained placid.

“’It is inspirational in every sense,’ he said, evenly.”

The movie, which actually came out in 2006, starred Iona Gruffud as the 18th and 19th Century British parliamentarian who campaigned literally for decades to end the slave trade in Great Britain. It is illuminating that Cruz apparently sees himself as a reformer in the model of Wilberforce, fighting against the more subtle slavery of big government not only as a matter of good policy, but as a matter of conscience. It is also revealing in that it suggests that Cruz will, like his British counterpart, will never stop until his goal is achieved.

Therefore it seems that anyone who seeks to gain a full understanding of Cruz and how he sees himself might do worse than watch “Amazing Grace,” a great movie, by the way, in its own right.

Just as an aside, “Amazing Grace” also stars two actors who later became famous in other productions as political rivals William Pitt the Younger and Lord Charles Fox. They are Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch and Harry Potter’s Michael Gabon respectively.

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