In March, Ted Cruz announced he was going to announce for president at Liberty University. The Washington Post gave him pretty fair coverage of that pre-announcement announcement here. Then, they gave shorter treatment here of the actual announcement, where they made sure to highlight certain aspects of the visit:
Cruz’s speech had the feel of a sermon at a megachurch, with the candidate wearing a wireless microphone and walking around a stage while delivering his remarks….
The speech embraced the goals of Christian social conservatives, military hawks and small-government tea partiers and illustrated the broad Republican coalition he is hoping to assemble. The location of the announcement, at an evangelical college, showed that Cruz hopes to mobilize young people behind a campaign that will start at the back of the GOP pack – but a position advisers said they feel good about because they can build upon by aggressively courting the conservative base….
Cruz decided about a month ago to declare here at Liberty, underscoring that he has been assiduously courting evangelicals and conservatives who are frustrated with Republicans in Washington and young people….
“Instead of a federal government that works to undermine our values, imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life, and to uphold the sacrament of marriage,” he said, focusing on evangelical priorities as well as secular conservative ones.
Sense a theme? Well, lest you get the impression that there was actually a receptive audience for this, the Post took pains to mention that the speech was “a required event for students enrolled there,” which apparently was such an important aspect of the visit that it merited a whole separate story by the Post, penned by a Princeton University student and reprinted by Valerie Strauss:
Seeing the American flags handed out left [Liberty student and non-Cruz enthusiast Luke Wittel] with bitter feelings of political exploitation. “Nothing makes you feel more like a pawn than being told to hold this and sit down,” he said. But, Wittel sees logic behind holding the announcement at Liberty. …
“By leaving out the mandatory element of the event, the media gave the illusion that [Cruz] had the support of all the students there,” Wittel said. Ultimately, he resorted to social media for protest, posting about his dissatisfaction on Facebook during the event.
In his Facebook post, Wittle wrote about the strange mix of religion and politics at the speech. “I don’t know if this is more or less offensive than the fact that the introduction to a POLITICAL candidate is being prefaced by worship through music,” Wittel wrote. …
Other Liberty students expressed their discontent on social media as well, including Facebook, Twitter, and Yik Yak, a mobile application that allows users to post anonymously by location and is popular on college campuses. Though Liberty students are used to mandatory Convocation, some squirmed at what felt like, to some, political exploitation and even a violation of rights.
“I felt very acutely that I was being used as political bait today” sophomore Emily Foreman said on Monday. “I think our freedom of speech was hampered today when we weren’t allowed to leave.”
Yes…exploitation of students, and making them “political bait” was apparently a hugely important part of the Cruz story.
Fast forward to yesterday’s visit to Liberty by Bernie Sanders, who spoke at the same regular convocation event at which Cruz appeared:
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders sought Monday to reach out to a conservative Christian audience, arguing that however stark their differences on social issues, they should agree there is “massive injustice” in the country’s economy.
“It would be hard for anyone in this room to make the case that the United States of America . . . is a just society or anything resembling a just society today,” Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist senator from Vermont, told a crowd of nearly 12,000 students and visitors at Liberty University. “There is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little.”…
“There is no justice when, in recent years, we have seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires while, at the same time, the United States has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth,” Sanders said. “How can we talk about morality, about justice, when we turn our backs on the children of our country?”…
“There is too much shouting at each other, too much making fun of each other,” Sanders said, prompting an “Amen” from a young woman in the venue, which doubles as Liberty’s basketball arena.
The reaction from students here was largely polite. Some said they found Sanders’s remarks thought-provoking, but few seemed ready to support him politically. …
“I don’t think he attracted many people in the auditorium, but I think it was still smart for his campaign, because it shows he’s willing to reach out,” said [Ryan] Hiepler, 18.
And then, in the 18th paragraph:
Students typically attend morning convocations at Liberty three times a week, and attendance is strongly encouraged. The university attempts to book an array of speakers, including the occasional politician. Officials said they have had Democrats speak before but never one seeking the presidential nomination.
No sense of injustice, no rushing to find students to discuss the indignity of being forced to listen to someone who is obviously a wacko, right? And, instead of a “required” event, we find that attendance is merely “strongly encouraged.”
Apparently exploitation of students and using them as “political bait” is something only a conservative can do. For Ted Cruz, this was the major theme of the reporting. When a seriously outside-the-mainstream leftist does the same thing, it’s shown as being “willing to reach out,” and as being passionate about “massive injustice.”
I know, it’s a small thing. But after years, it adds up. Maybe it’s just me.