I had an interesting chat a few days back with a friend of mine, a very plugged-in political reporter. Like a good reporter, he aspires to neutrality, but he can’t hide his distaste for Cruz and his appreciation for Trump. What gets him about Cruz is the pose of smarmy rectitude, which he sees as entirely hypocritical. I can see that, but what surprised me was his analysis of what’s behind Trump’s appeal: his compassion. Ordinary voters sense that he’s on their side, as opposed to people who really don’t care a fig about them.
There isn’t much compassion around these days, not from people who think ordinary Americans are bigoted meth addicts who deserve to die out. From Obama you expect that, but this is from people we thought were on our side!
Compassion is also absent from people who see politics as a kind of political geometry. Start with the right postulates and axioms and the theorems will line up nicely. That’s how Mitt Romney came up with his 59-point plan. Anybody remember that? Maybe just one point? Bueller? Bueller?
When Romney spoke of the 47 percent of takers, he conceded the election two months before it was held. He also proclaimed a perfect fidelity to principle, coupled with an indifference to people. It didn’t work. People looked at him and saw a heartless asset fund manager who told us he liked to fire people.
I am tired of people who tell me Cruz has the perfect set of principles. Who cares, if someone so easy to dislike could never win an election. You remember what Bob Dole said about Cruz, when asked why people take an instant dislike to him? “Because it saves time,” he answered.
I know a good many people from Texas. They’re on the Cruz bandwagon. But privately they tell me they won’t vote for him. They know him too well.
Conservatism isn’t a kind of geometry. It’s a humanism. It’s about people. I wish more conservatives knew that.