I have a confession to make: I’m a Tea Party conservative who doesn’t like Ted Cruz.
I’m hardly alone in this. Many conservatives, myself included, find the Texas senator’s character questionable. Every single thing Ted Cruz does seems calculated to benefit one person: Ted Cruz.
But I have another confession to make: I support Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential race.
Yes, the man seems to lack principle. I still can’t get over over the time hesmeared a group of Middle East Christians, who had come to Washington to beg for their lives, as anti-Semites, rather than risk the ire of neocon blogs. Then there’s his marked disinterest in policy. Compared to his fellow Tea Party Senate stars like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Mike Lee, Cruz has easily been the least willing to dabble in innovative policy ideas to make the Republican Party relevant in the 21st century. Indeed, he is famous for his almost total lack of interest in legislation.
Then there’s his approach to politics. Cruz has built his career on selling Republicans the most toxic lie: that the GOP’s only problem is a lack of furious orthodoxy, and the only thing it needs to get conservative voters to the polls is an extreme candidate. This is utter nonsense, and has had deleterious effects on Republican efforts in several state and national elections.
So, why do I support Ted Cruz for president?
He has one amazing virtue that can’t be ignored: He is not Donald Trump. And at this dark hour in conservative politics, that is a supreme qualification to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States.
Cruz has another quality that makes him a worthy horse for conservatives to back: his intense and intelligent focus on the mechanics of running a campaign. Almost every observer agrees he has run the most professional and effective campaign of any candidate on the Republican side.
And no conservative can fail to appreciate a man who stands up to defend an innocent woman’s honor. When Trump decided to insult Cruz’s seemingly lovely wife, I felt a jolt of pride when Cruz responded by calling Trump a “sniveling coward.” Even if it’s play-acting, old school insults are a good look on him.
Finally, there’s the virtue that every conservative mulls, between shots of whiskey, to comfort and convince himself into supporting the candidate he doesn’t like: Were Cruz to become president, conservatives would likely approve of the people he would appoint to the Supreme Court. That’s enormously important, particularly with the late conservative jurist Antonin Scalia’s seat open, and the aging state of the court’s liberal wing. The next president will have the opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court for a generation. Better Ted Cruz than Hillary Clinton.
Could Cruz win a general election battle against Clinton? It won’t be easy. Trump has done incredible damage to the Republican brand, and the Democratic machine is going to have a field day painting Cruz as a heartless cro-magnon. But Cruz’s campaign is based as much on populism as it is on conservative extremism, and that populist message is probably the best kryptonite against Hillary Clinton, who represents the “establishment” as much as any politician of any party in America. Still, winning in November would be an uphill battle, no doubt. But Cruz would certainly have a better shot than Trump.
Hand me that bottle. If Lindsey Graham can do it, so can I. Ted Cruz for president.
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.