Ted Cruz for President

He’s the change we’ve been waiting for.

I am proud to endorse Ted Cruz for president.

The strongest Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan, Cruz can, with a Republican Congress, reverse the disastrous policies of the current president. A broom-wielding Cruz would clean up the messes of the Obama years and, one hopes, much more besides. To coin a phrase, Ted can fix it.

I had resolved not to endorse any candidate this cycle—having been disappointed too often in the past—but as the race has unfolded I’ve become increasingly convinced that the Texas senator is the real deal and the only constitutional conservative who can win.

Each of the candidates claims, of course, to be a liberty-loving cherisher of smaller, constitutionally limited government. Each claims to understand our current challenges, fiscal, cultural, and international. Each claims to have the steely resolve to meet those challenges. But only Cruz plausibly lives up to those claims.

Most candidates talk as if they are running against Washington, Cruz is doing so. He alone among the crowded field has earned the hatred of the Washington establishment—a deep and abiding hatred. His fellow senators shun him. No self-respecting lobbyist will be seen with him. The Chamber of Commerce wants his scalp on a pole. He has, in short, excellent taste in enemies.

The Beltway criticism of Cruz is that he has no accomplishments. There are no major laws named after him, he hasn’t crafted a bipartisan compromise, never joined a “gang” of eight or ten or fourteen. Maybe so. But how does a man “get things done” in a town to which he is laying siege and whose residents are pouring boiling oil on his head? And how valuable are bipartisan “accomplishments” these days, anyway?

Cruz can win. He has the skill, the message, the energy, the organization, and the war chest to go all the way. In this era of “base elections,” he is the candidate most likely to energize the conservative base. He is the only candidate who has understood and responded smartly to the Trump tsunami.

What of his rivals? While they all have their virtues, next to him each comes up short. Trump is too vain to be president, Carson too humble. Fiorina is too vague. Bush, Rubio, and Christie are all too big-government. As for Kasich, Huckabee, Santorum, Pataki, Graham, Gilmore, Jindal, Perry, and Walker, it is hard to believe any of them is ever going to be president.

For a time, I had high hopes for Rand Paul, whose views on fiscal, monetary, and Fourth Amendment issues are excellent. The son of Ron Paul is sincerely devoted to smaller, constitutionally limited government. And his foreign policy stances are, for the most part, a lot more realistic and prudent than his detractors will admit. But I reluctantly have to question his judgment in light of his strategic alliance with Mitch McConnell, who personifies the establishment, his jockeying to make sure he can run for President and Senate at the same time, which smacks of mere office-seeking, and his radical proposal to privatize marriage, which suggests he either doesn’t understand marriage or doesn’t understand his audience. Better, I think, to keep him in the Senate.

Cruz and Rubio are superficially similar, but on closer inspection, the differences are, as Trump would say, yuge. Rubio is arguably a moderate, Cruz is unquestionably a conservative. Rubio is pro-amnesty, Cruz is anti. Rubio wants to reinstate NSA’s program of collecting bulk metadata on the private communications of U.S. citizens; Cruz helped end it. Rubio supported U.S. efforts to topple the dictators of Libya, Egypt, and Syria; Cruz opposed those interventions as reckless and not in the national interest. (Subsequent events suggest Cruz was right.) Rubio wants two income-tax brackets, Cruz wants one. Rubio would have a top rate of 35 percent, for income above $75,000; Cruz would have a single rate of 14.5 percent for everyone. Rubio would expand the child tax credit, Cruz would not. Rubio would retain the payroll tax, Cruz would abolish it.

What about the idea that Rubio is the best Republican to take on Hillary Clinton, because he is a young, oratorically gifted Hispanic from a large, critical swing state? (Let’s set aside the bizarre contention that he’s not really Hispanic because he’s Cuban.) If nominating a young, eloquent Cuban American is a game-changer, Rubio has no advantage over Cruz. And yet, to be sure, there is a prima facie case for having a Floridian on the ticket, because of its 27 electoral votes (ten percent of the number needed to win) and its swing status. But in an age of base elections, an analysis that stops at geography is simplistic. There are 50 states; Rubio could win Florida and still lose the election. The critical factor will be relative turnout in all of the key states, which will hinge on partisan energy and enthusiasm in those states. The key question will not be whether a candidate can deliver Florida but whether he can deliver his own base in every critical state. And the surest way to do that is to excite conservatives nationally. Issues must be given at least as much weight as geography.

Can you think of an important issue on which a President Rubio would govern in a meaningfully different way from a President Bush or a President Romney? I cannot. Is there an issue on which Rubio would take the conservative position and hold his ground in the face of a uniformly opposed establishment and press? Does he, for example, have the mettle to stare down the modern equivalent of the 1981 PATCO strike? I have no idea. I know Cruz does.

Rubio has been an active legislator and deserves credit for at least one major accomplishment. A law he wrote last year stopped a bailout for the Obamacare insurers. As a result, the inevitable death spiral of Obamacare is being accelerated. That is impressive and welcome. But does it change my general assessment? No.

Some will argue that the current front-runner, Donald Trump, is in fact the best choice, because he’s basically a larger-than-life Cruz with an even larger war chest and no chance of being bought. I’ll admit there are appealing elements in the character of the Blue-Collar Billionaire. He’s the guy you want negotiating on your behalf. And I happen to think his position on immigration is essentially right.* His unflinching defense of it has placed his opponents in a revealing light. But his policy instincts are not particularly conservative. His message is about “greatness” and “winning,” not about liberty or the Constitution. He is, at bottom, a nationalist. Cruz is a patriot. A nationalist says, “Our country, right or wrong.” A patriot says, “Our country when she’s right, our principles when she’s wrong.” Trump wants to make America great again. Cruz wants to make America great again by making her good again.

None of this is to suggest that Cruz is perfect. I don’t pretend he walks on water. I thought the unsuccessful Obamacare defunding fight two years ago, which he led, should have been framed around the unpopular and unconstitutional individual mandate instead of the abstract noun “Obamacare.” And I don’t care for the idea of judicial retention elections, which he has proposed (though I think he is right to want to end judicial usurpation). Nor do I care for his plan to add a new value-added tax on top of an income tax, no matter how simplified the latter. (We’d be far better off, in my opinion, to abolish all forms of federal income taxation and instead rely exclusively on duties and excises, as we did before 1913.) And his crowd-pleasing bill to permit health insurance sales across state lines is a solution in search of a problem. But those are quibbles. His instincts, logic, and timing have generally been impeccable. And there is something inspiring about his courage, honesty, imagination, and fighting spirit. He is a happy warrior for an unhappy age.

Incidentally, I don’t buy the argument that Cruz is too conservative or too divisive to win a general election. They said that about Reagan too. If anything, Cruz’s anti-Beltway Cartel message may hold some appeal for Democrats, if, as expected, their nominee is the very face of that cartel, the female version of Richard Nixon.

I endorse Ted Cruz because he is the only candidate in the race who is consistently right and consistently fights and can win.

He’s the change we’ve been waiting for.

Dean Clancy, a former White House and congressional aide, writes on U.S. health care, budget, and constitutional issues. Follow him at deanclancy.com or on twitter @deanclancy.

* UPDATE Dec. 8: I do not support Trump’s proposal to prohibit all Muslims from entering the United States.

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