Diary

Rather Than Pillory Candidate Ted Cruz, Convince Us Yours Is Better

Although I don’t wish to wade into the now-busy airspace surrounding the merits or demerits of [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]’s newly minted presidential run–a sensible example of the latter having been posited by Charles Cooke over at National Review–I do want to add a note nonetheless regarding the inevitable criticisms of inbound candidates.

It’s been interesting over the last 24 hours gauging the reactions of the myriad corners of Twitter to Cruz’s announcement. While I don’t count myself surprised that there hasn’t been much genuine enthusiasm at the prospect of a Cruz run–most people preferring other senators in the field of potentials–I am slightly taken aback by the ferocity of chest-beating I’ve witnessed among several on the right against Cruz. Such recriminations have ranged from the predictable “if he’s the nominee, Hillary wins”, to the admittedly valid “he can’t win moderates/he hasn’t accomplished much as senator”, or the simply vacuous “this is why we lose”.

Without getting into the rationality of every specific knock against Cruz or, frankly, any of the candidates who will be announcing in the coming weeks, I do, on one level, question their ultimate utility.

I can understand if [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] isn’t on one’s shortlist of preferred presidential candidates. He doesn’t appear anywhere among my own top three. Further, I also recognize that different people have legitimate concerns regarding a potential candidate’s ability to appeal to voters, or even with regard to a position on a specific policy issue. This is to be expected. However, taking these into consideration, I don’t believe the best option at that point is to simply level opprobrium, for it is rarely convincing on its own, and constructive not at all.

Instead, the appropriate response to a primary candidate one disapproves of tossing their hat into the ring is to then do the hard work necessary of getting your preferred candidate the nomination. It’s quite easy to play the part of the crystal ball-gazing keyboard warrior who does naught else but proclaim their vision of the future from on high. It requires a great deal more effort to go about the intellectual toil of convincing folks why your guy or gal is the one we all should be pulling the lever for. Between vigorously typing in the social media echo chamber, and engaging with a real person out in the places they live their lives, which strikes you as the method most likely to persuade someone into your corner?

Demonstrating one’s rapier wit 140 characters at a time can get people riled up, for sure, but I wager that shaking a person’s hand and having a meaningful conversation pays genuine dividends.

In addition–as a sidebar–focusing on getting your guy elected, rather than wasting energy on why that guy shouldn’t be, also saves any awkwardness of potentially casting a vote in the general election for someone you’ve just spent the entire primary cycle suggesting was a terrible idea. After all, what would you have accomplished at that point? Not only would you be “that guy” who could only froth at the mouth on social media when persuasion was the best currency, but you’d also risk charges of hypocrisy. Better in my mind to not be that guy.

Coming full circle back to [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]: at this point we have little way of knowing just what sort of campaign he intends to run. Will he temper his rhetoric to court independents, or even nominal Democrats? Can he get young voters excited about his brand of conservatism? Does he have a snowballs chance in hell?

Who knows. Maybe he’ll be a good presidential candidate. Maybe not. With 20 months before the election, I trust that public sentiment (and candidate performance) will ebb and flow as it always does. I am confident of one thing, however: it behooves those of us who closely follow elections to spend our time making our own horse in the race look better, rather than kicking dust in the eye of the others to make them look worse by comparison.

Perhaps, in doing this, we can arrive at the general election with a candidate that has the most to offer.