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by Alexander R. Cohen

 

In a Ted Cruz ad, Amy Lindsay says voters should look for “more than just a pretty face.” But the Cruz campaign isn’t using the ad: Lindsay turned out to have been in adult movies, so the campaign decided to drop her. But Lindsay is more than just a porn actress. And therein lies a lesson Cruz should be teaching, but one it turns out he needs to learn.

Who is Amy Lindsay, besides a porn actress? For one thing, she’s a good enough actress with her clothes on to have landed the role in Cruz’s commercial. She got it through an open-call audition. BuzzFeed doesn’t give details, but presumably that was a competitive process and she won: an achievement by standards the Cruz campaign itself or its contractors set.

Her IMDB entry lists both adult and tamer work. She’s done comedies. She’s even done Star Trek, appearing in the series finale of Voyager. So even if you think porn is contemptible, she’s done work worthier of your respect.

Who is Amy Lindsay, besides a porn actress? She’s a voter deciding, she told BuzzFeed, between Cruz and Donald Trump. And even after Cruz ran away from her, The Hill notes, she might still vote for him.

She’s a “very fiscally conservative” voter, she told CNN, but one who, despite telling journalists she’s a Christian conservative, is “maybe a little bit more socially liberal in some of my views.” That puts her in a category of voters Ted Cruz has been pursuing. Such voters might think, as she did before the campaign dropped her, that having “a cool kind of open-minded woman like” her in his ad showed that Cruz wasn’t just for “some old, white Christian bigot.”

Yes, Cruz could have sent quite a welcoming message by standing by her. He could have shown that he doesn’t reduce people to their worst (by his standards) deeds, that he sees even those he deems sinners as human beings who may yet have something to offer. But by retreating from the ad, the campaign sent a different message instead. It said it didn’t want to be associated with people who believe that porn is morally acceptable and act accordingly.

That includes a lot of fiscally conservative, socially liberal voters like Amy Lindsay—libertarian and libertarian-leaning voters. Not all such voters, of course, approve of porn or enjoy it, but many do. If Cruz wants to bring such voters into his tent, he should consider not telling them he doesn’t want to be associated with them. He should tell his staff that this sort of shunning is unacceptable.

But there are deeper concerns here than which voters this shunning will cost him.

In shunning Lindsay, the Cruz team acted on a traditional sexual morality that condemns porn. It said: If you do not live by our views of sexual morality, we do not want to be associated with you. It’s not a big step from there to saying: If you do not live by our views of sexual morality, we do not like you, we do not care about you, and we do not see you as one of the people we’re fighting for.

Does Cruz really want an America where we don’t think people who disagree with us about sexual morality are worth fighting for?

If so, he’d better rethink that. Traditional sexual morality—the morality that holds that sexuality should be organized around lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual marriage open to reproduction—is, in large parts of the United States and in many of the country’s most powerful institutions, no longer the dominant moral view. The question now is not so much whether traditionalists will tolerate different approaches to sex as it is whether, and to what extent, people who reject the traditional approach—people who, for example, embrace same-sex marriage—will tolerate those who adhere to tradition.

That means people who, like Cruz, believe in traditional sexual morality need to cultivate a culture of tolerance and respectful disagreement. They need to show that people who disagree on these issues can coexist and, for the most part, work together without compromising their values. They need to show that we can see value in a person without approving of everything he or she does. They need to show that we can say: I disapprove of this one thing you do, but that’s not all you are. You do other things too, things I recognize as good. I still think you’re a good person on the whole, and you still matter to me.

And considering the reputation they have acquired as haters, they need to prove that they in particular can say that.

The Cruz campaign could and should have taught that lesson when it learned that Amy Lindsay was a porn actress. Cruz could have come out and said: “I’ve learned that one of the actors in one of my commercials has done some adult movies. I don’t approve of adult movies, I don’t watch them, and I don’t think you should make them or watch them. I would never have hired an actress because of her work in such movies, nor would I reward someone for making such movies in any other way.

“But just because a person does some things I don’t approve of doesn’t mean I stop treating that person with respect. It doesn’t mean I stop looking for what’s good in that person. After all, in a free society, where we disagree about some of the most important moral questions, every one of us will sometimes do things we think are right but other people think are wrong. We all need toleration sometimes, and we should all practice it. That doesn’t mean we don’t think there are right answers to moral questions. It means we respect the individual’s conscience and the individual’s need to live by his own judgment, even when our own judgment says that person is making a mistake. It means that we don’t refuse to do business with someone just because she doesn’t share all our values, or just because her life reflects that, unless we can’t be true to our own values without refusing.

“Amy Lindsay is a good actress, and while she’s used that ability for some bad things, she’s also used it for some good things. She’s more than just a porn actress; she’s a good actress. And she’s more than just an actress; she’s a human being. This campaign gave her an opportunity to use her talents for something good. I’m not ashamed of that, and I hope she does more good things in the future.”

Ted Cruz could have taken this opportunity to teach a valuable lesson. But it seems he needs to learn it first.

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