Now that the race is over, it’s time for the conservative movement as a whole, and Cruz supporters especially, to look inward, to reflect, and to try to understand what both Sen. Cruz and his supporters could’ve done differently to be a more effective representative of that movement.
I know immediately many people will say Cruz shouldn’t have done anything differently, or that even if he did, it would’ve made no difference. The latter may be true, but it’s irrelevant. There are many things that are out of the control of a presidential candidate, but that should have no influence on the way he or she chooses to run his or her campaign.
So this is my attempt to clarify what I believe about Sen. Cruz’s campaign, and what he could’ve done differently.
Even though he’s a conservative, Sen. Cruz talked and behaved far too much like a typical politician, especially when it came to dealing with a bully like Trump.
What does the average man do when dealing with a bully? They either walk away, they punch em in the face, or they give them a verbal beatdown. I was hoping all along Cruz would do the latter, but at the very least walk away.
The one thing you never do with a bully is praise the bully.
Not only does that make him legitimate in the eyes of other people, in this case voters, but it also affirms him in his own mind and incentivizes him to be even more aggressive and harsh with other people in the future.
Yet this is exactly what Cruz did.
He gave Trump his now infamous “bear hug”, in the hopes of winning over Trumpsters by playing footsie with their cult leader.
What Cruz failed to understand at the time, which I’m sure he understands now, is that Trump created a cult, and most of his followers can’t be pandered to. They don’t care about policies, even immigration, as much as they care about supporting Trump because they’re living vicariously through him, which means if you attack Trump, you attack them.
So in the end, attacking him early may have had the same result as attacking him now will have, which is to have no effect at all, but that’s missing the point. The point is that it should’ve been done because it was the right thing to do.
Bad people must be called out, particularly those who wanna lead us and represent our country. It takes courage to do so, and sometimes can end one’s career, but a career isn’t worth saving if it means losing one’s dignity and soul in the process.
Rick Perry understood this, and I gave him credit for it back then. I give him even more credit for it now in hindsight, when it’s even more clear how much courage it took to take on the monster we know as Trump directly.
Don’t get me wrong, because when discussing complicated situations, particularly in politics, things can often be misunderstood.
I don’t think Sen. Cruz was afraid of Trump, or that he was a coward. I think he’s a genuinely good man, which itself is rare in politics. But he’s a good man who sometimes is too smart for his own good. He knows politics is a game of chess, and he played it better than any other candidate, that’s why he was the last man standing against Trump.
Cruz viewed the race through that lens more than anything else I believe. But some situations or decisions must necessarily rise above political calculus. Standing up to Trump, in my opinion, was one of those situations.
The problem for Cruz was that the very group of people who he was trying to woo, mostly blue-collar, culturally Christian, and often low-income whites, started to catch onto his game-playing, and didn’t like it. They agreed with him on most issues, maybe even more so than with Trump in some cases, but none of that mattered, because they were fed up with the establishment and with any candidate who they even perceived to be another typical politician.
Unfortunately, compared to Trump, Sen. Cruz fit that mold. In reality, he is by no means a typical politician, since typical politicians don’t fight the establishment in their own party.
The irony is that Sen. Cruz ran his campaign very efficiently and effectively, which is what a good politician would do, but that only solidified in the minds of those low-info voters the idea that Cruz is just another politician, even though he’s a really skilled one.
Even though Sen. Cruz fought the DC establishment, he fought it from the inside, and that feeling of disgust that average americans have with Congress spilled over onto him.
He had the mentality of an outsider, but the appearance of an insider, and sadly for the average GOP primary voter, superficial things like appearances are all that matter.
I believe Cruz should’ve attacked Trump early and often, from day one. People at least would’ve respected him for it because they would’ve known he was being honest. When he said Trump was “terrific”, I don’t think anyone believed he really thought that, so he proved to everyone, even his own supporters, that he was acting like a typical politician and wasn’t being completely honest, at least when it came to dealing with Trump.
That was one of his fatal flaws, because of all election cycles, this was the one that people desperately wanted something other than a typical politician.
The ironic thing is Cruz ended up losing to Trump anyway, so all the spinning and phony praise of him didn’t work in the end. It would’ve been better to just be honest and speak his mind from the start, and let the chips fall where they may.
I know some of my fellow Cruz supporters might not wanna hear this, but it needs to be said. We have to hold politicians accountable when they aren’t honest with us, even when it’s involving one who shares our beliefs and values and is generally a good person.
We can’t create a cult of personality around our candidate like the Trumpsters have done, and pretend like he’s flawless and that every decision he makes is the right one.
Cruz has made plenty of mistakes this election cycle, and it’s ok to call him out on them, in fact it’s our duty to do so.
The problem is Trump has turned this race into such a bloodsport that it’s become tribal, and so it created a tribal mentality where supporters of each candidate felt they had to defend their candidate no matter what because they’re so used to watching him being attacked by the other candidate and his supporters, so they don’t wanna do anything that they feel isn’t helping him.
We have to resist that temptation, because it’s not only bad for our candidate since it covers up his flaws, it’s also bad for democracy.
I think the most important lesson I learned in this election cycle is something that only confirmed what I already believed: A candidate for president should be as honest with the voters as possible. That doesn’t mean you speak your mind on every issue, or answer every question reporters throw at you.
But you can’t be overly strategic either. On the most important issues, you have to come across clearly, with a firm resolve, and without hesitation or hedging. You have to know when to speak your mind, and when to stay silent, but when you do speak up, you should do so in a way that leaves no doubt in the minds of voters about what you believe.
On the issues of whether or not Trump was fit to be president, Cruz simply didn’t do this, and he had many opportunities to do so. Whether or not this “legitimized” Trump in the eyes or more low-info voters, I don’t know, although a case could be made that it did.
But either way, Cruz’s hands-off approach to Trump certainly didn’t expose him as the fraud he is, or at the very least cause voters to question whether he really believed the things he was saying. Maybe this would have had no effect, but that’s the whole point of debates, for the candidates to test each other and prove to the American people who’s worthy of their vote. Sen. Cruz simply didn’t test Trump until far too late in the process, and by then, after months of praising him, it came off as inauthentic.
I think my criticism of Sen. Cruz on this really was exemplified by him during his interactions with reporters yesterday. He was asked about Trump’s most recent crazy statement about Cruz’s father being involved in JFK’s assassination. Cruz responded by saying, “I’m gonna tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.”
At that point, I think most of us conservative political junkies who’ve been following this race closely all along had to do a double take. My immediate reaction was, “Dude, you’re just opening up about this now?”
After all the crazy, despicable, and often stupid statements and actions Trump has been engaged in over the past 9 months, you choose to truly speak your mind and heart about what you think of him on the last possible day?
I can’t speak for all conservatives or Cruz supporters, but I can speak for myself when I say I’d been waiting to hear him say what he really believes about Trump, clearly and in the most simple and straightforward terms, since Trump got in this race.
Saying it yesterday, after everything we’ve been through, and after passing up countless opportunities to do so, was really meaningless, and if confirmed the suspicions of the people who were on the fence about Cruz all along that he wasn’t leveling with us and was holding something back.
Standing up for the truth matters most when it has the greatest risk to the person taking that stand. It doesn’t take any courage to speak your mind when there’s little risk involved and people have already made up their minds about something.
In the future, the next candidate who wants to lead the conservative movement has to be a voice crying in the wilderness for liberty and the values and principles that we all share, not a master strategist who knows what the most effective words and actions are to win an election. He or she has to be a beacon of light who stands up to bullies, both inside and outside the GOP, who takes on the tough issues like entitlement reform, and who tells voters things they don’t necessarily wanna hear, but things they need to hear.
Right now I don’t know who that candidate is, but I’m hoping he or she is out there, and that they will step forward and run as a conservative independent candidate. Conservatives need a voice in this election, and we won’t have one unless a true conservative steps forward and represents us. I hope and pray we find one, and soon, cause the hour is late, and the fate of our country hangs in the balance.