To Cruz or Not to Cruz

Let me state up front that I am an unabashed Marco Rubio supporter and was from the beginning.  However, that boat has sailed.  Likewise, I am also one of those unabashed #NeverTrump people more willing to write in the name of Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Hector Camacho, the mythical president played by Terry Crews in Idiocracy, than cast a vote for Clinton or Trump, even if it meant enduring at least four years of Clinton’s shrill voice.  If someone had told me 18 months ago that our possible choices for the next President would be a probably-never-indicted criminal (Hillary Clinton), a charlatan huckster parading in the clothes of a “conservative” (Donald Trump), a socialist (Bernie Sanders), or a “Gee, gosh willikers” Ohio Governor who incessantly reminds us that his father was a mailman (John Kasich), and Ted Cruz, I would have thought the country has completely gone off the rails…sort of.

For Ted Cruz, no one questions his bona fide conservative credentials.  To the Left, he is a dangerous, “evil” ideologue; to the Right he is an ideologue willing to fight on principle.  To others, they attack his style as self-serving and rigid.  For example, take the instance where Cruz called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the floor of the Senate.  To some, it was an unnecessary break in Senate decorum and Ted Cruz being Ted Cruz to aggrandize himself and his political aspirations.  But, these criticisms ignore a very real question: Did, in fact, Mitch McConnell lie?  The facts behind the Cruz accusation are lost in the noise about his lack of Senatorial courtesy- of breaking some unwritten rule that one Senator not call another Senator, especially one of your own party, a “liar.”  To this writer, it was not Cruz selling himself as an insurgent within the GOP taking on the powers that be; it was Cruz calling out a liar.  Sometimes one needs to throw the proverbial rhetorical verbal bomb and if anyone doubts that, then they misunderstand the rise of Donald Trump.

In this area what his critics misunderstand or fail to fathom is that the establishment’s preferred method of measuring productivity is directly related to the degree they compromise with Democrats.  Unfortunately, the greatest misunderstanding among the establishment is a failure to realize that Democrats and the Left are unwilling to compromise on anything.  Take another example of Cruz in action- the Iran nuclear deal.  Cruz placed a hold on every State Department nomination pledging to hold up the process until Obama came clean on details regarding the agreement.  That drew the ire of McConnell and Democrats who, in the interest of showing they were doing something productive like approving ambassadors to Norway and Sweden, attacked Cruz for his efforts.  However, prior to his actions, the Senate had signed off on the Corker-Cardin agreement that essentially ceded Senate oversight of a “treaty” to the Executive branch.  They followed this up with a refusal to defund the Iran deal’s implementation.  It was not as if Cruz (and others) did not fight during these battles.  Instead, Cruz was forced to use the last tool in his arsenal- the hold- to make a legitimate point.

To be sure, like all candidates, Ted Cruz is not without warts.  To assert that Cruz is the walking epitome of all “pros” and no “cons” is disingenuous.  And as proof, we can look to some of his alleged “flip flops” on issues.  This writer sees these less as flip flops.  But, they do represent a weakness in Cruz that needs some explanation because it is not necessarily the perceived change in position that is troublesome; it is the messaging regarding the perceived change that is.  It is, I believe, a weakness that can be exploited in the general election since people make up their minds based on emotion, not intellect, most of the time.  Case in point: Donald Trump.

One example is his alleged flip flop on the TPA.  To be sure, Cruz was in favor of the TPP- the multinational agreement free trade agreement with Asia.  He even penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal along with Paul Ryan extolling its virtues and voted favorably for the TPA.  However, after intense fire from grassroots organizations against the agreement, Cruz changed course claiming that the Senate was ceding too much power to Obama and that it was a bad deal with loopholes- especially in the area of immigration.  If the agreement was so good that he would write an op-ed with Ryan, then who cared about fast tracking it?  Instead, Cruz nuanced the argument from one of a good free trade agreement to one of principle regarding Executive power.  Granted, that view is very legitimate, but one that is lost on the majority of the electorate.

There are other areas where Cruz has nuanced his stances.  In 2011, he declared on television that birthright citizenship was a settled issue as concerns so-called anchor babies.  Yet, in 2015 he changed that view and added a few words to his definition of acceptable birthright citizenship- if the immigrant entered the country legally.  That proviso was not there in 2011 although it could have easily been.

The problem is that Cruz is a lawyer and he talks like a lawyer.  Several years ago, a man in Texas was caught stealing a calculator from a local WalMart.  This is a crime that would have resulted in a maximum 2-year sentence.  But, the man was considered a repeat offender at the time.  As state solicitor general (a job created specifically for Cruz), he argued the case all the way to the Supreme Court in favor of the mandatory 16-year sentence being imposed.  The court system eventually released the man after 6 years, no thanks to Ted Cruz.  This writer has no sympathy for repeat offenders, but the rigid stance taken by Cruz and questioned by even conservatives on the Supreme Court illustrates a problem.  Technically, logically and legally, Ted Cruz was right.  But from the emotional standpoint, he was wrong.  In a general election, events like this will be used against Cruz and he will be forced to defend the position.  But, I venture that the vast majority of the electorate do not know the role of a state solicitor general, nor do they particularly care.  Instead, they will see someone who insisted on a 16-year sentence for a shoplifted calculator from WalMart.

Likewise, they will care little about immigration reform bill “poison pills,” federal abrogation of duties in enforcing federal drug laws, or supporting a 500% increase in H1B visas followed by a moratorium on H1B visas.  The stances taken by Ted Cruz- if they are flip flops or not- may have been absolutely correct and perhaps principled, but they are principle wrapped in nuance.  Here is perfect example: In 2014, Cruz criticized the Obama administration for not enforcing federal drug laws regarding recreational marijuana use in response to the Colorado law.  In 2015, he told Sean Hannity at CPAC that states should be allowed to legalize marijuana without backing away from his previous views about Obama’s non-enforcement.  To the voter this registers as: States should be allowed to legalize pot + Obama should enforce the drug laws = states should not legalize marijuana.  Someone with a rudimentary understanding of the law and federalism may understand Ted Cruz, but your average voter cannot name two Supreme Court Justices, or their own Congressman for that matter so I doubt they will understand Cruz’s stance.

Perhaps it is this lawyerly persona that has Trump in the lead.  Unfortunately, he is so far at the opposite end of the cerebral spectrum that Trump lands somewhere in the “dolt” section.  Cruz appeals to the politically-engaged, principled intellectual while Trump has the dumb ass vote.  Unfortunately, it appears there are more dumb asses than there are intellectually principled voters at this stage.

Some polls show Cruz beating Clinton; some polls show him losing.  But polls mean nothing this far out from November, especially on a national level.  Most educated people know this election comes down to a handful of states.  Regardless, there is an upside with Ted Cruz.  He has proven himself to be a shrewd politician, and calculating.  The timing of his announced candidacy was designed to upstage the announcement of Rand Paul who was considered a viable choice at the time, and that of Scott Walker.  Further, some have characterized his earlier detente with Trump as a political miscalculation.  However, he knows full well he will need those Trump supporters if he is to be the eventual nominee.  Thus, where some people see a shrewd, calculating politician prone to self-aggrandizement, others see a person willing to do whatever it takes to win while remaining principled.  And isn’t winning- or defeating Clinton- what this election is all about?  Ted Cruz is fighting to not only win the Presidency, but to save conservatism from Donald Trump…and the Republican Party.

Trump has largely received a pass from the Leftist media because he generates ratings and revenue.  Apparently, the American electorate is not ready for, nor do they want an intellectual and principled discussion about the choices facing the country in 2016.  But, that is precisely what this country needs- not the vacuous vitriol spewed by Donald Trump on a daily basis.  Whether Cruz or Trump against Clinton in November, it is a crap shoot for the Republican Party.  The electoral map starts with an advantage for any Democrat, but a Trump candidacy has more residual downside such as the possible loss of the Senate.  In fact, a Trump candidacy would likely place states like Indiana or Georgia at risk in the electoral vote count.

This writer starts with the supposition- perhaps the “glass half empty” attitude- that whether Cruz or Trump, Clinton will win.  But, the choice between Trump and Cruz is not hard.  I would rather go down fighting the good fight based on sound conservative principles rather than the cat fight destined to be a Trump versus Clinton campaign.  Cruz may not be the best candidate to beat Clinton, but Donald Trump is certainly the worst choice.  Considering he will ruin the Republican Party and conservatism in the process, at the very least we will preserve them with Ted Cruz as the candidate.  At the very best, we will swear in Ted Cruz as President in January 2017.