The Republican Tribalism In Ted Cruz's 'Duck Dynasty' Ad

Issues? What issues? Check out the ad Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson has cut with Ted Cruz -- and while you're watching it, pay attention to the use of the slippery word "us."

"My qualifications for president of the United States are rather narrow," Robertson says in the video. "Is he or she godly, does he or she love us, can he or she do the job, and finally would they kill a duck and put him in a pot and make him a good duck gumbo? I've looked at the candidates; Ted Cruz is my man. He fits the bill. He's godly, he loves us, he's the man for the job, and he will go duck hunting -- because today we're going."

At the end of the video, Robertson turns to Cruz and says: "You're one of us, my man. That's why we're voting for you."

Just who is "us" in this context? On the surface, it seems as if the "us" in "You're one of us, my man" is the Robertson family -- Cruz will smear his face and go duck hunting, so he's an honorary family member.

But think: Why did the Robertsons become TV stars? They became stars in part because we live in a country where people who smear their faces and go duck hunting feel that people who don't do those things (a) have all the power (the filthy liberal slicksters) and (b) hold hunters and their ilk in contempt. The Robertsons aren't filthy liberal slicksters -- if you hunt, they're relatable (though if you hunt, "relatable" is a word you'd probably never use).

And Phil in particular is relatable because he defiantly asserts that America is, or used to be and should again be, a Christian nation. His first criterion for a president, he tells us in the ad, is "Is he or she godly?"

So now let's go back to that word "us." I don't think the message here is just that Cruz is an honorary Robertson. I think "us" is the Real Americans, as defined by Robertson and his fans -- people who hunt and get dirty and believe America is Christ's terrestrial home. And when Roberson says of a hypothetical candidate, "does he or she love us," I don't think he simply means "does the candidate love America?" or"does the candidate love the Robertson family?" I think he means "does the candidate love Real Americans, and no other Americans?," following that definition.

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I know there are other meanings here -- no, Cruz isn't a Canadian (though I'm pretty sure they hunt in Canada), and no, Cruz isn't a New York slickster like Donald Trump, or even a Miami slickster like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. But I also think the "us" is Real Americans as the right has always defined them. Chances are you're not one of them.

(Crossposted at No More Mister Nice Blog)


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