Political Hay

Ted Cruz: Man of the Year

He's both principled and effective

By 12.19.13


It is a rare thing for a freshman United Senator to make the impact that Cruz has made in his very first year in the Senate. To take a stand, to stick with it impervious to the assaults and petty jealousies of the crowd. And most importantly to bring about change.

What Cruz is about is precisely what Ronald Reagan was about. Recognizing that the world of liberal utopia — a world of income redistribution and massive government regulation, socialism — is antithetical to freedom. Not to mention that it is destined for failure.

To do this…to be effective….is, of course, precisely why Ted Cruz has attracted such intense attacks. Adding to the mix is that Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, is also a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School — a star of the Ivy League. Generations ago it was said of Franklin Roosevelt’s opponents that they hated him because FDR — a patrician, upper-class Ivy Leaguer — was a “traitor to his class.” In today’s world Ivy Leaguers are expected to buy into the world of American liberalism. Not unlike another Ivy League Texan — George W. Bush — Cruz didn’t buy in, making him a magnet for the kind of intense feelings of class betrayal that Bush attracted routinely.

On top of this, as with Reagan, Cruz’s well-thought out conservatism and his uncanny ability to pleasantly explain his views in crystal clear language — and successfully act on them — has drawn the furies of the Republican Establishment in Washington. The wrath of his fellow Republican senators and their appalling willingness to attack one of their own in an all-too apparent willingness to sell out their own constituents in the Obamacare showdown was a stunning advertisement for politicians who see the GOP as exactly what Reagan insisted it should never be — a “fraternal order.”

The presence of Ted Cruz in the Senate this last year raises the question that was at the center of the holiday classic film It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart. As all of America is reminded at Christmastime when the film pops up everywhere, the movie explores the idea of just what the lives of the good citizens of Bedford Falls would have been like had Stewart’s character George Bailey never lived.

What would the last year have been like in Washington had Ted Cruz lost his primary last year to the GOP Establishment candidate? It’s clear that the serious policy fights listed above might well have had a different — which is to say worse — outcome.

No Ted Cruz in the Senate? There would be no understanding with the American people that there are Republicans deadly serious about repealing Obamacare — and that liberals were so obsessed with getting control of their private health care they were willing to shut down the government to do it.

No Ted Cruz in the Senate? President Obama would long ago have had a signing ceremony at the White House to celebrate the passage of Manchin-Toomey’s gun control provisions.

No Ted Cruz in the Senate? The last year would have seen very different policy outcomes on immigration, perhaps Syria and definitely on Rand Paul’s drone fight.

And while on the subject, if Ted Cruz is the Man of the Year this does nothing to slight the accomplishments of Senators Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio. While the latter has stumbled on immigration, along with colleagues Paul and Lee, Rubio has mostly kept the faith with the conservative base of the GOP that elected him. All of these senators, every one of them still new to the Senate, has made a positive impact that far outweighs their length of service.

The very fact of their accomplishments, individually and collectively, speaks to what can only be called the shell-shocked nature of the always timid GOP Establishment. To say that the GOP — in this case considerable numbers of GOP senators — is shell shocked or timid is to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Just the other day, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made news when the Wall Street Journal revealed that McConnell was pitching as follows:

GOP Incumbents Lean on Donors to Beat Back Primary Foes

One source who was in attendance at the event cited was quoted as saying:

“The main message he was pushing was: Get involved, mainly to teach those who are primarying incumbents that it is not helpful to run against incumbents who are champions for the industry.” 

The issue at hand here was defense — as if conservatives do not support a strong Reaganite national security policy. The real issue is that it is all too easy to believe McConnell is making this pitch to every “industry” in Washington, which is exactly how the nation wound up with a $17 trillion debt in the first place.

To go back to the question of what would have happened in 2013 if Ted Cruz had not been in the Senate one can easily ask another question, a question that Ronald Reagan himself use to raise when he said there were too many Republicans in the day who saw the GOP as a “fraternal order.”

The question?

How many of these Republicans who are out there overtly or covertly attacking Cruz and the Tea Party in fact really had no problem with Obamacare? Or gun control? Or amnesty and a lack of border security on the immigration issue?

The behavior of House Speaker John Boehner, the nature of the budget deal and too many backstage and not-so-backstage whispers to count raise the obvious question that Reagan raised. Are these people about a political party with bold colors — or a fraternal order with pastel colors?

The importance of Ted Cruz, the reason why Ted Cruz rates the choice of “man of the year” in this column’s corner is that Senator Cruz understands both principle and effectiveness.

And in understanding those two things, Cruz has in fact turned flat-out opposition to Obamacare into the political version of an appreciating asset. Note this story from Newsmax about Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett. Here’s how Newsmax headlines the tale about a Republican riding low in the polls:

Corbett to Make Campaign Referendum on Obamacare

That’s right. The Governor, whose polls are not the best, is going to use opposition to Obamacare to fuel his campaign. “All politics are local” went the maxim of the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill, a Democrat. True. In this case that translates as meaning Corbett’s situation is… Corbett’s situation. But there is no mistaking that the Governor and his team have surveyed the Pennsylvania political landscape and concluded that Ted Cruz’s gift of making clear outright determined opposition to Obamacare is nothing if not political gold — an appreciating political asset for every Republican everywhere.

Ted Cruz understands, exactly as his Texas predecessor Sam Houston understood, that he was not sent to the United States Senate to remain silent or shrink from the discharge of duty. He stands and speaks in spite of what Houston called “all the intimidations, or threats, or discountenances” — which in today’s 24/7 world of media is considerable.

That’s why Ted Cruz is so popular with the conservative Republican base.

“I will not yield those principles which I have fought for” said Senator Houston.

Neither will Ted Cruz.

Which is exactly why he is the Man of the Year.


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About the Author

 Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan. An author and CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com and @JeffJlpa1. His new book, What America Needs: The Case for Trump, is now out from Regnery Publishing.