Ted Cruz: Big Data, Small Government, Big Politics
Photo by Gage Skidmore
Sen. Ted Cruz is all about keeping "Big Brother" government off of people's backs, but it turns out he has absolutely no problem nosing through people's information for his own purposes.
On Friday the Guardian broke a story that the junior senator and GOP presidential contender's campaign has been using psychological data based on research pulled from millions of Facebook users, mostly without their permission, to give his run an extra edge as he vies with the other contenders — mainly (shockingly, to some) Donald Trump — for the Republican nod.
Cruz has been using a data company, Cambridge Analytica, funded by hedge fund magnate and leading Republican donor Robert Mercer, to try and figure out exactly who he needs to be for each voter he comes into contact with to give Cruz the best possible chance of winning the voter's support.
The highly tailored approach to each individual is done by using "psychographic profiles” of potential voters so that Facebook likes are matched up voter information that already exists, like which voters own guns, according to the Guardian.
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When asked about using this type of data study to try and get as many people in his corner as possible — and it seems to be working since Cruz is currently pulling ahead of Trump in the Iowa polls — Cruz was quick to point out that he's not the only politician who has employed these types of techniques to find the best way to sell himself to voters. He explained that his campaign “is very much the Obama model – a data-driven, grassroots-driven campaign – and it is a reason why our campaign is steadily gathering strength.”
Yep, that's right: This is probably one of the only times in the history of Cruz that he has admitted to doing anything the way our current Commander-in-Chief has done it in the past. (Fellow GOP presidential contender Ben Carson has also used Cambridge Analytica, according to the Guardian, but he hasn't used it to the same extent as Cruz.)
It's not really much of a shock that Cruz, the consummate politician, is using different lines with different types of voters. After all, that sort of thing is really a fish/swim, bird/fly situation in that politicians are always trying to hock themselves to the crowd. Heck, Cruz owes his current presidential bid and his entire political career not so much to the brilliant Constitutional mind we've heard so much talk about, but to his gift for taking an issue like "big government," opposing it and playing that self-cast role as "valiant savior of privacy and less government involvement in your life" to the hilt.
(Unless of course you happen to want to have access to abortions or marry a person of the same sex or be a non-Christian immigrant to this country. In those instances Cruz magically reverses his "small government" stance to say that such things shouldn't be allowed at all.)
The surprising part of the whole thing is that he doesn't seem to have any problem with mining the information of millions of people to find the best angle to appeal to each voter. His new approach uses everything from consumer habits to a smartphone app that keeps supporters in touch while also allowing the data company to scrape the phone for other contacts, according to the Washington Post. There's even this thing called geo-fencing that allows Cruz's campaign to send out digital messages in small areas.
The thing is, when he's not the one digging for the data, Cruz has been reliably against such things. He's railed against all things he views as big government (including his infamous fake filibuster on the Senate Floor over Obamacare during the budget bill crisis in 2013) and has once again been calling for an end to the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program, arguing that the government has "an obligation to honor the Bill of Rights," according to Politico.
So even though in many ways this type of data collection goes against everything Cruz claims he stands for (and gives his campaign something in common with Obama's) apparently it's no big deal for Cruz to be gathering this much information about the people he's trying to get to vote him into the most powerful office in the nation. On the upside, at least if Cruz ends up winning the White House ending NSA surveillance will (probably) be a top priority with the new Commander-in-Chief. And just to be on the safe side, he can use Cambridge Analytica to make sure that's what voters really want their new president to do.