I must admit, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was not someone I was following in the crowded Republican field for the presidency in 2016. So, I’ve been unaware of what a complex personality his wife, Heidi, is, and how she’s easily worth many stories in her own right.
The Atlantic just came out with a profile of Heidi Cruz that breaks new ground in what we know about her. It’s the first interview she’s given since 2016. There has been quite a bit of pushback about a quote she made complaining that her husband’s U.S. Senate salary is sparse — to the point where she has to be the family’s main breadwinner. Cruz’s Senate paycheck is $174,000, not bad money in an inexpensive city like Houston and we haven’t added in the generous bucks she pulls in from her job.
This YouTube video is one of many that rips her for being so tone-deaf and this Twitter feed really tears her apart. In terms of religion and journalism, all of this is a shame, as there’s fresh faith content in this piece, as well.
After an intro about how the couple met, there is this:
Since then, as Ted’s wife, the mother of their two daughters, and the family breadwinner, Heidi has helped see him through roles as Texas solicitor general, U.S. senator, and, most recently, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. In 2015, she took unpaid leave from her job as the managing director of Goldman Sachs in Houston to campaign for her husband. Suddenly, the curtain was pulled back on the woman who professed to love one of the most polarizing figures in American politics. While Ted struggled to find character witnesses within his own party—his colleague Lindsey Graham once joked about someone murdering him on the Senate floor—Heidi collected fans wherever she went. “Everyone loves Heidi,” a prominent Houston Democrat told me. “Every time I talk to her I think, You should be running for office, not your husband.”
Then, here is why we’re reading this piece.
Ambitious young women imagine choosing their own worlds. But to become a political spouse, even in 2018, is to learn that your world will be chosen for you. For Heidi, that’s meant enduring an excruciating spotlight, weathering tabloid rumors and the current president’s jibes about her looks. Now her husband is in the midst of yet another intense campaign, this time against Beto O’Rourke, the liberal darling vying for his Senate seat. As the race continues to dominate cable news, I wanted to know what the circus feels like for Heidi. I wanted to know, too, how she maintains a sense of herself in an arena that defines her in relation to someone else.
It’s an interesting story about how two high-powered people met and struggled to keep careers that interested them both, even if it meant that he lived in Austin and she lived in Houston. Then the article casually drops the fact that her parents and upbringing were Seventh-day Adventist. This article from a San Luis Obispo, (Calif.) Tribune, tells more about her Adventist upbringing.
Which has little to do with the rest of the article but it’s still a nice detail.
Then comes the part where she got so depressed, she wandered onto a freeway on ramp in August 2005, and a police officer took her in custody until her husband could pick her up. Other stories about the Cruzes say they somehow blundered through the rough spots in their marriage, but this Atlantic article added Heidi’s personal take on that time in her life, the first time she’s publicly spoken about a time when she seemed to veer toward suicide.
Shortly thereafter, on a friend’s suggestion, Heidi signed up for a Catholic spiritual retreat. Much of that weekend was cathartic. Rarely had she articulated aloud her trouble coping with the move—the feeling that, in leaving Washington, she had divorced an essential piece of herself. The retreat would ultimately help guide her future as a political spouse.
Heidi remembers her counselor, an 80-year-old Haitian woman, well. Heidi told her about the small things that had gutted her since she’d arrived in Texas…At the retreat, she felt selfish for mourning a job change when others were grieving, for example, the loss of a child.
The counselor “sat me down, and she looked at me and she goes, ‘I can tell you have an amazing husband. And you both will have an impact on this country,’” Heidi recalled. “She said … ‘God is going to use you, not Ted — not just Ted. You’re part of this team for a reason. God’s gonna use you to do something beyond yourself. You just let God take you to Texas, you let him take you wherever. Because there’s something bigger than you now.’”
Has this been in print anywhere else? If not, that is an amazing anecdote.
Ten years later, those were the notes she found scrawled in the front of her journal as she headed to Liberty and to Ted. It’s not as though she believed her counselor was a “seer”—nothing kooky like that. But she couldn’t help but feel that a prophecy of sorts was being fulfilled. On those pages she read of a woman frozen by purposelessness. Here, though, on this airplane, was a woman helping launch a campaign for the presidency of the United States. “I just started crying,” she said.
The article is important for other reasons than the place it gives religion. It talks about the mixed feelings that smart women –- with their own careers -– have when they have to give it up to benefit their husband’s career.
It describes the lonely battle Heidi Cruz fought in her own mind as to whether she was being forced to sublimate her own calling or whether she was choosing, even wanting, to put her needs on the back burner for a time.
Leaving her job for her husband would be different this time around—of this Heidi was certain. She’d thought through the ways the campaign trail would be painful: the scrutiny, the suitcases, her name swapped for his lovely wife. But because she’d signed on for her own reasons, it seemed endurable. “I think feeling empowered through different chapters of your life is so important … Sometimes, you can do that by being deliberate,” she told me. “Like, a spouse could have gone into the presidential [campaign] and said, ‘I didn’t choose this; my husband did, and now [we’ve] lost. We’re in a different place. I wish I hadn’t done this.’” Heidi was determined to avoid that fate.
I would have liked more, like some tidbits about the church they attend (as a former Houston Chronicle religion writer, I was curious as to which of the area’s many well-known churches the couple settled upon); what they do to train their kids up in the faith and whether Heidi Cruz still practices as an Adventist, as she was the daughter of missionaries. She may still be a vegetarian but the Atlantic piece talks about her serving champagne, so it’s clear she’s not observing SDA’s prohibition against alcohol.
What does she think of her husband’s stands on Israel and on religious freedom? Does she have any religious causes apart from his? We hear of her success at Goldman Sachs, but is there a corresponding goal on the faith front? We hear about how she’s up at 5:15 a.m. to exercise but evangelical Christians of the Baptist variety are known to put in some prayer time at the beginning of the day. (There’s a reason why the popular devotional Jesus Calling has sold 17 million copies). How about Heidi?
While I’m grateful this piece delved a bit more into times in her life when she encountered God, there’s so much more to ask. For instance, this article talked about a two-hour prayer session the couple had while trying to decide whether he should run for president in 2016. What might they be praying about during his current race against Democrat Beto O’Rourke, which he will probably win?
Heidi Cruz is only 46 years old, so I’m betting we’ll see a lot more of her and her husband in the future although not too soon, judging by the bad reacts this profile has gotten. Ted has gotten good at marketing his religious faith but I think it will be a long while before Heidi markets hers.