LOS ANGELES, March 23, 2015—Republican Sen. Ted Cruz formally announced Monday his entry into the 2016 presidential race. While Sen. Cruz’s supporters are cheering and swinging from the rafters, both the left and right side of the aisle are drawing their long knives.
The problems presented by both sides regarding Sen. Cruz’s electability, or lack thereof, are the very things that then-Sen. Barack Obama was lauded for. President Obama is a graduate of Columbia and Harvard and was editor of the Harvard Law Review. He was an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago Law School and had a meteoric rise from state senator in 2004 to United States senator two years later.
Sen. Cruz is a graduate of both Princeton and Harvard. He was the longest serving solicitor general of the state of Texas and argued nine times in front of the United States Supreme Court—no small potatoes for any appellate attorney. He was also an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law and, against all odds, became a United States senator for Texas in 2012.
Prominent black conservative Black Republican also compares Sen. Ted Cruz and Obama, but the comparison is not favorable:
I don’t like Ted Cruz for the same reason I never liked Obama — I know a demagogue and an opportunist when I see one.
— Ξ BLACK REPUBLICAN Ξ (@blackrepublican) March 23, 2015
That could very well be—opportunists aren’t restricted to any political party. However, if you compare apples to apples, Sen. Cruz has all the bonafides that the left considered attractive in Barack Obama and still does in their candidates. He is a minority, born of a Cuban father and a white mother, so if Sen. Cruz wins the presidency, he would be the first Hispanic-American president.
Read Also: The bothersome clarity of Senator Ted Cruz
In an interview in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who is no right-wing partisan by any stretch of the imagination, said of his student Cruz, “Off-the-charts brilliant. And you know, liberals make the terrible mistake, including some of my friends and colleagues, of thinking that all conservatives are dumb. And I think one of the reasons that conservatives have been beating liberals in the courts and in public debates is because we underestimate them. Never underestimate Ted Cruz. He is off-the-chart brilliant. I don’t agree with his politics.”
For the left, the problem lies squarely in Sen. Cruz’s politics: He is unapologetically conservative and not afraid to get in your face about it. Being branded with the scarlet “C” immediately places you in the idiot-racist-bigot category to many on the left, no matter what your pedigree.
The left’s first volley to derail the Cruz train was to trot out doddering California Gov. Jerry Brown on “Face the Nation” to declare Sen. Cruz “unfit” for the presidency. According to the governor, Cruz “betokens a level of ignorance” on climate change. One would think Gov. Brown was in a Shakespearean play with such language. Being a resident of his state, Brown betokens a level of ignorance on economics in trying to force-feed Californians a bullet train that nobody wants and will costs us billions… but I digress.
Vox and the Wall Street Journal torture the idea of whether Sen. Cruz has the proper citizenship to be president because he was born in Canada, albeit to an American mother. All that is needed to stir the pot is to tease the question, and tease they did. This, despite all the hue and cry over Donald Trump questioning President Obama’s citizenship and requesting a birth certificate. In all fairness, Donald Trump is also questioning Sen. Cruz’s citizenship, so his birtherism knows no party.
Then there is the damning and oft-repeated label of “right-wing extremist” lobbed against Sen. Cruz. His detractors all agree that it is this extremism that makes him patently unelectable. Sen. Cruz uselessly filibustered for 21 hours over the repeal of Obamacare and was blamed by his own party for the 2013 partial government shutdown. Writer Jamelle Bouie boldly declared in his Slate column:
“But if we look at his donors, his public statements, and his voting record, it’s clear that Cruz is among the most extreme candidates to ever run for the Republican nomination, a far cry from the kinds of people the GOP tends to nominate.”
No argument on the last sentence, which factors into his attractiveness to certain conservatives. There is no love lost between the conservative base and the GOP establishment, and with each election cycle the divide seems to only get wider.
Establishment Republicans and conservative writers are doing their part to rain on Sen. Cruz’s parade. Fellow Republican and Texas Sen. John Cornyn was cool to the question of whether he would endorse Sen. Cruz for the presidency, saying to Politico, “You know, we’ve got a lot of Texans who are running for president, so I’m going to watch from the sidelines.”
John Zogby of the polling enterprise opined in Forbes, “Ted Cruz Makes It Official But Should Anyone Care?”:
“If he is still around, then he will move on to Florida which will have two favorite sons on the ballot. I cannot see former Governor Jeb Bush and Senate Marco Rubio not staying in the race until they get home. The next day Mr. Cruz will drop out – if he is in the race even that long. So pay attention today. It may be the biggest day of Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential bid.”
Way to underwhelm, John.
Republican Rep. Peter King wasted no time dissing Cruz on CNN. “Shutting down the federal government and reading Dr. Seuss on the Senate floor are the marks of a carnival barker, not the leader of the free world,” King said.
Some of this rainfall has little to do with his pedigree or his talking points, much to do with his communication style. The Atlantic criticized Sen. Cruz for his apocalyptic language: “Although many in the media find Cruz’s use of such hyperbolic language alienating, there’s strong reason to believe that it actually has the opposite effect on his audience. In fact, throughout his career Cruz has relied on fire and brimstone rhetoric to create a world that trades ambiguity for absolutes.”
And conservative writer Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review also has a problem with Sen. Cruz’s speaking style. “And yet, I hated every single moment of the address. Why? Well, because for all his obvious talent Cruz’s rhetorical style frankly makes my hair curl a little. Striking a pose that lands somewhere between the oleaginousness of a Joel Osteen and the self-assuredness of a midwestern vacuum-cleaner salesman, Cruz delivers his speeches as might a mass-market motivational speaker in an Atlantic City Convention Center.”
Some research needs to be done on what the Atlantic and Cooke have published about President Obama and his speaking style. He employs inflections and language similar to Sen. Cruz’ on his audiences; but Sen. Cruz can do it without a teleprompter.
From his stance, to his record, to his personal style, Sen. Cruz was first out the gate, so it puts him on blast, rightfully so. But much of the criticism and commentary is less about politics and substance and more about style, and visceral or personal animus. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh cautioned conservatives on his radio show against fixating on single issues and perfection:
“One of the things I’ve noticed over the 25-plus years of doing this program, every Republican primary, doesn’t matter, every Republican presidential primary, there’s a series of candidates. Some are conservative, some are okay, some are bad, but they’re conservatives. Some have been really good. And we take ’em out one by one because they’re not perfect.
“With Cruz it’s gonna be something else, somebody, some conservative blog or some conservative host, some conservative media type somewhere is gonna find one thing that candidate X, conservative candidate X falls short on and they’re gonna say disqualifies him. And this happens. This is one of the reasons why the Republican Party ends up with the McCains and the Romneys as the nominee, because this quest for conservative perfection ends up doing great damage to individual conservatives in the race.”
It is way too early to declare whether someone is electable or unelectable without seeing him in action. The electorate needs to look at their record, how they hold up to the vetting, campaigning, and debating. These should be the focus of selection. When we eliminate viable candidates because of nit-picky litmus tests—whether conservative, liberal or moderate ones—we end up with the worse of the two evils.
The hope is that with a quality field of movement conservatives, along with the usual moderates and extreme right-wingers stepping up to the plate, Republican and conservative voters should be allowed to make sound choices that are based on the substance of the candidate. With a whole year left before any nominations are made, all we can do is watch, vet, wait and see.