So, I like Cruz. I had an open diary about why I should change my opinion towards Trump. In the comments (waaaayyy more than I was expecting) the argument came down to two points:
- Cruz has better positions, but Trump is more likely to achieve his goals
- Trump is more electable. Not that he is more likable, but that he is more likely to do whatever it takes to win.
First, I always want to address arguments on their strengths, not their weaknesses. There will be no adhominem, no straw man arguments here. I do want to address these two issues in order (one in this diary, the other in the next). Let’s look at Cruz’ goals. Obama’s goal included introducing a structural change to the entire healthcare system. A lot of people consider reversing that as Cruz’ platform. While it is something he would like, he recognizes that requires Congressional action. When he talks about the things he guarantees he will do it includes:
- Rescind Obama’s illegal action (which would include immigration)
- Direct DOJ to investigate PP
- Direct DOJ and IRS to end persecution of religious liberty
- Cancel the Iran deal
- Move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem
Let’s note a couple things. First, these are all exclusively executive actions. He is not staking his presidency on defunding planned parenthood, he will direct one of his agencies to investigate – which he has the authority to do. He will not ask Congress to amend the Iran deal, he will cancel it – since it is an executive agreement anyway. Keep going through his list, nothing requires consent here. If you consider what he would do next, it would probably include moving further back through executive actions, rules, and orders rescinding and dismantling much of our bureaucracy. These will absolutely be enacted since there is no way for Congress to block any of them (short of a veto proof majority passing bills).
Second, if Cruz were to win you could probably count on a Republican Senate as well (the House is not competitive this year). With Cruz in the White House and Ryan mostly putting together consensus between conservative and moderate Republicans while ignoring Democrats there would be enormous pressure on a Republican controlled Senate. Most of the Republican initiatives involve budgeting, not stand alone legislation. Luckily budgeting is done through reconciliation, which requires 51 senators, not 60. When deciding the funding (and prohibition of funds) there is huge leeway for a President Cruz to move an agenda, even without pushing stand alone laws. On top of that, Ex-Im would simply expire, along with many other programs that would come up for re-authorization. No law needed, simple expiration. There would not even be a debate, since there would be nobody introducing such legislation.
Finally, keep in mind the reason the Republicans lose fights is that they cave in every showdown. Cruz has been ineffective in stopping Obamacare, Obama’s immigration plan, and defunding Planned Parenthood. However, you have to grant that he would be willing to watch the entire Federal Government collapse over these issues. When he is negotiating with Senate Democrats from the White House you have to believe that they understand this. You have to believe that they understand that if the Federal Government’s non-essential services were to shut down for 3 months people would notice that life still goes on. A two week shutdown puts the Republicans in a bad light because they are the ones risking the nation. A three month shutdown exposes most of our bureaucracy as pointless.
In summary as far as Cruz enacting a conservative agenda:
- Much of his agenda move the ball without any Congressional action
- If elected the Senate Republicans would be forced to the right
- His clear willingness to wind down Federal Spending under a “shutdown” would necessarily frighten Democrats.
By way of comparison we know exactly what Cruz will do and how. We also know that at least half of his goals cannot be stopped (since they are executive only). In contrast, I don’t have any idea what Trump would try to do, or how he would do it. I don’t know whether he will try to use executive action, appointments, new laws, judicial arguments, or a twitter campaign.
Next time – electability.