Earlier this fall, I bought an erotic political novel meant as propaganda for a Ted Cruz presidency. Or, at least, that’s how the book was packaged. A Cruzmas Carol is Lacey Noonan’s 2015 reimagining of A Christmas Carol, in which the “Bathroom Attendants of Constitutionality Past, Present, and Future” take Cruz on a madcap night of lewd hallucinations to convince him to run for president and save American democracy. “He’s got it all,” the novel’s Amazon description reads. “The stunning good looks, the six-pack abs … the perfect record as a hard-balling, take-no-guff U.S. Senator. So why won’t he run for president? … Why’s he being such a Tedbenezer Scruz?”
Obviously Cruz has presidential ambitions, but who would eroticize this man? This was around the time that protesters chased Cruz from a fancy D.C. restaurant as one man jeered, “Beto is way hotter than you, dude.” Nobody seemed to be challenging this: Cruz himself has lately been trivializing Beto by drawing attention to his flawless hair. A brief perusal of Twitter suggests that Americans are aflame over Beto’s hot DUI mugshot while fixated on Cruz’s “sentient neck waddle” and his cheeky embrace of the Zodiac killer (“Ted Cruz is the only person who pretends to be a serial killer to be more likable”). From where I’m standing, Cruz is the anti-sex symbol of the United States Senate—a charmless and diabolical wonk who derives pleasure from being brought “to the brink” only when it involves a shutdown of the federal government.
Look, I’ve seen The Century of the Self and I’ve read some Freud. I know that sex is supposed to be at the molten core of even the most coolheaded decisions. So an erotic novel about Ted Cruz seemed potentially revelatory, a sultry explanation of why Cruz is up five points in the polls. But alas, dear reader, you must visit Politico for clarification on this. While smutty, A Cruzmas Carol turns out to be neither erotic nor conservative propaganda at all.
In fact, the novel is a ninety-page depraved humiliation of Ted Cruz, a gem of surrealist political satire. After two terms in the Senate, Cruz has decided to forego public service for a more lucrative life on K Street. At his retirement party, he plans to bone his chief of staff, Roberta “Bob” Cratchit, but Roberta accidentally poisons him with an aphrodisiac oyster. In the bathroom, Karl Rove advises Cruz to “Grab power by the short and curlies … while America is still hard for your hole,” but when Cruz still refuses to run for president, Rove informs him that the ghostly Bathroom Attendants of Constitutionality Past, Present, and Future will soon teach him a lesson. As promised, the attendants whisk Cruz through a magical glory hole into debauched Republican fantasias (Roberta’s asthmatic son Tiny Timmy being “forced to give in to tyranny” by signing up for Obamacare) that convince Cruz that it’s his duty to run for president.
Not a single moment in this novel could possibly be described as arousing. The aphrodisiac oyster is a “sea booger” that is as “unhappy … in Ted’s belly as the poors were in federal housing.” Cruz greedily imagines “the invisible hands of power [stuffing] seven figures into the … pants pockets that bulged now on either side of his immense and thickening manhood.” Noonan writes of Cruz’s “member of Congress,” his “Washington monument,” his “little chief of staff,” his “Richard Milhous ‘Tricky Dick’ Nixon,” and “a lovely dark bush like amber waves of grain.” Our thirty-sixth president (a known pervert himself) receives special attention: at one point Cruz’s “johnson had softened, like President Johnson on the poor,” and at another, “his President Johnson hardened with utmost urgency, as did President Johnson after the Gulf of Tonkin incident.”
Unappealing as all of this is, I think it’s fitting that Noonan packages her book as erotica. Depicting Ted Cruz as a horny vulgarian implicitly compares his ruthless quest for power to sexual predation. Obviously this is partisan, but in Noonan’s hands, sexual desire is an effective metaphor for the squalid illogic of some political beliefs (she has also penned two novels about an Obamacare-funded sex robot seducing conservative Connecticut housewives in defiance of their racist disgust). While I believe in dismantling bad ideas with good ones, sometimes outright dismissal works, too: through Noonan’s eyes, the platitudes that undergird Cruz’s policy agenda—patriotism, freedom, honor—seem to be merely kinky fetishes. My only caveat about A Cruzmas Carol is that the fictional Cruz’s bumbling indecision and vapidity may risk underestimating the politician, who is a true believer with boundless ambition to shred American society and institutions. But Noonan’s coupling of sexual and political vulgarity strikes me as a pitch-perfect encapsulation of the grotesque orgy of money, power, masculinity, and abuse that pervades Washington today.
Although some argue that the absurdity of this political moment neutralizes the power of satire, I disagree. In A Cruzmas Carol’s most lyrical passage, a bald eagle (the Bathroom Attendant of Constitutionality Present) flies over our nation’s capital, taking a “sparkling” and “ethereal” shit on it all. It’s a montage of city life: a CEO decides to move his factory to Bangladesh, “ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for his shareholders,” and a “soon-to-be-previously gay man” goes to conversion therapy so his “sin would drop away like the crust of a (homosexual) chrysalis,” enabling him to “marry a beautiful woman and raise two point five beautiful children.” Meanwhile, “President Obama unfurled his secret prayer mat, lay it on the floor facing east and knelt down on it,” while “Harry Reid polished off a bill that would stifle innovation” and “Hillary drew up plans for the assault on Benghazi” (“the bird unloaded his butt-mud on them all”). Through its crass imagery, this passage reflects what are essentially the actual beliefs of many in power today, charging the novel’s satire with urgent disgust.
Over the past two years, the barrage of shocking and abhorrent political news has become a form of water torture. It’s a dripping monotony that registers less as individual drips than as amorphous, excruciating pain. And while reporters are taught to be precise and measured in their language—“demonstrable falsehoods” rather than “lies,” “racially charged comments” rather than “bigoted vitriol,” and “unconfirmed accusations” rather than “conspiracy theories”—erotica-cum-political satire has no such constraints. The stark depravity of A Cruzmas Carol reminds us, bitterly, that our polite fictions and conscientious attempts at precision obscure the outrageous reality in which we all currently live—a reality that is fit for semisurrealist novelty erotica.
True to form, A Cruzmas Carol ends with a warning. In the moment that Cruz embraces his duty to run for president, the toilet in the magical bathroom overflows, creating a Biblical flood that destroys America. Floating on a table towards the Chesapeake Bay, Cruz finally has sex with Roberta, sheltering inside her “like a weary traveler in a good, honest American home, guarded against unlawful entry or the quartering of occupying armies by the Constitution of the United States.” To be sure, Noonan’s prose is about as purple as Beto needs Texas to be, but her point is unmistakable: in the midst of this patriotic copulation, the table is sinking under the waves. Today, I want you to imagine a different ending. That eagle with the ethereal shits is flying over the wreckage, shrieking, “Oh my God, please vote!”
Sylvie McNamara lives in New York.