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Why Ted Cruz's pitch to Spain's far-right political party matters

Sen. Ted Cruz's pitch to Spain's far-right political party is emblematic of a larger shift in Republican politics.


Given the United States' role as an international leader, it's not surprising when American politicians express an interest in other countries' electoral affairs. Four years ago, for example, former President Barack Obama endorsed Emmanuel Macron's candidacy in France. Last month, Obama didn't explicitly back Canada's Justin Trudeau, but he came awfully close.

And just as Democrats have found common cause with other center-left parties, it's been relatively common to see Republicans aligned with center-right parties. When Mitt Romney traveled abroad in 2012, for example, the then-GOP presidential nominee made a point to spend some time with Conservative Party leaders in the U.K. (Tories were reportedly unimpressed.)

But as Republican politics in the United States becomes more radicalized, GOP officials are moving beyond connections with center-right parties abroad, instead establishing new ties with far-right parties.

There's been considerable coverage in recent months, for example, about growing Republican support for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his far-right agenda. Former Vice President Mike Pence recently traveled to Budapest to talk up his approach to "family values" and express optimism about the Supreme Court restricting reproductive rights.

But the trouble doesn't end there. The Washington Post reported this week:

[This past weekend], Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) beamed in virtually to a rally in Madrid held by Vox and spoke glowingly of the "shared values" between him and Vox leader Santiago Abascal, whose party espouses a virulent anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-feminist agenda, has attacked Pope Francis over the pontiff's rhetoric about the sins of Spanish colonialism in the Americas, and engages in borderline nostalgia for the era of the country's fascist dictatorship.

The article added that Cruz told his audience that the collective goal should be to "promote and defend the principles that underpin our vision of a world where people who share our principles can thrive."

Spain has a center-right political party, known as the People's Party, which is roughly in line ideologically with the Conservative Party in the U.K. or Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union in Germany. In recent generations, the Republican mainstream would likely see Spain's People's Party as an obvious ally.

But for Cruz, the better connection is with the party that split off from the People's Party — because it just wasn't conservative enough.

It's a reminder that those who continue to see the Republican Party as a center-right party should probably reassess those assumptions.