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Ted Cruz’s alternative history of Detroit.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Motor City is playing host to the embarrassment that is tonight’s Republican debate, and so the moderators had to eventually acknowledge the postindustrial blight that surrounds the ornate downtown Fox Theater where the event took place. In its general programming, Fox News (no relation) actually talks about Detroit more than you might think, usually as a shorthand for what happens when “liberals” (read “blacks”) are allowed to run rampant in a city. Ted Cruz’s answer, to a Chris Wallace question about the loss of manufacturing in Michigan, was yet another classic in the genre

Cruz’s survey of the rise and fall of Detroit went from the phenomenal entrepreneurial genius of Henry Ford to the golden years of the post-war era straight through the awful tyranny of big government and soft-on-crime and something something taxes. At no point did he mention the labor movement, or offshoring, or redlining, or race riots, or white flight, or “managed bankruptcy,” or gentrification, or any of the other myriad interlocking factors that a modern history of the city should necessarily touch on. While the solution to what ails Cruz’s Detroit is simply to elect Republicans, the reality is far more complicated.