Ted Cruz: The Champion You May Need

Ted Cruz: The Champion You May Need

Conservatives and evangelicals who proclaim they categorically cannot support Ted Cruz for president are making a mistake.
Hunter Baker
By

Matthew Anderson explains “why I cannot support Ted Cruz.” There have been other critiques, some aggressive, some concealed (but clever like a shiv), that aim to paint Cruz as an evangelical, but not the right kind of evangelical. These efforts may become more urgent as people I admire and have as friends seek to undercut Cruz for the sake of Marco Rubio.

I get it. The Trump train is freaking people out. They need to see him derailed, but too many people are dividing the vote, denying Bush or Rubio (depending on your preference) from rightly vanquishing the Donald. Cruz could vanquish Trump, but that, too, seems to be unacceptable. Why is it unacceptable?

What’s Wrong with Ted Cruz

First of all, Cruz is unacceptable to many of my friends because he is too ambitious, too much of a grandstander, not a team player, etc. He got to the Senate and pushed to the edge of a government shutdown (notably reading “Green Eggs and Ham”). The reading may be that he thinks he’s Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Second, Cruz comes off much less as a Christian who brings a holistic view of the faith to politics and much more as a pure Reaganite conservative. He isn’t going to use government to bring about the eschaton at all (unless the eschaton means the American constitutional design). He’ll preserve traditions, and many of those traditions are built on Christianity.

That’s the link. It’s not the one many evangelicals want. Only some will understand this, but Cruz is not a conservative version of Mark Hatfield. Rubio may be that. Cruz is really just a conservative who is also a Bible-believing Christian. That said, I find the account touching of how he wrote Bible passages in letters to his parents as he tried to keep them from getting a divorce.

Third, he probably lost many of the cool kids of the evangelical world when he sounded too hawkish in the last debate. The reference to carpet bombing doesn’t sound like something any devout Christian really should say. I agree with that.

Cruz-Haters Are Making a Mistake

But now I want to change gears and explain why those who would proclaim they categorically cannot support Cruz are making a mistake.

The first reason is that Cruz is the only real shot Republicans have at derailing Trump in these early contests. Rubio is not magically going to jump up and beat Trump. Cruz can at least do it in Iowa. He could also win the Southeastern Conference states (at least on balance). If Cruz does that, the Donald freight train will slow way down.

Cruz is the only real shot Republicans have at derailing Trump in these early contests.

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Second, whether or not you think Cruz has a bad personality or overly strong views, he has proved he can move the needle by connecting with voters. I am personally well disposed toward Jeb Bush and Rubio. I’d even take John Kasich!

But the simple fact is that, as Trump has sucked the air out of the room, really one candidate has been able to get attention. That’s Cruz. His positions may not be finely wrought enough for many of us who want a candidate to perfectly navigate the maze of viewpoints, but voters hear him and respond.

Third, Cruz is quite clear about where he stands (with one exception). I concede that he, like everyone in the GOP, has proven to be less than a rock of consistency on immigration. But in all other matters, you know where Cruz stands. It’s easy to know. Ask yourself, what does a highly text-driven and original understanding of the U.S. Constitution demand? Cruz will do that.

Let Cruz Make His Case

If you want to knock him biblically, I guess you could say he is more motivated to observe a traditional view of the Constitution than he is to pursue a biblical vision. You could fault him for that. But I have to admit that I find his fealty to the Constitution comforting.

Ancient political thinkers distinguished between rulers, elites, and masses who ruled based on whether they observed the constitution rather than their own changing and self-interested whims. Cruz is all about living with the Constitution as it came to us from the founding generation. A big part of what that means is federalism. If we have a hope of navigating the culture war more productively, it is through a rigorous application of the federalist principle.

If we have a hope of navigating the culture war more productively, it is through a rigorous application of the federalist principle.

Finally, and this may be the most important thing, Cruz is an uncompromising pro-lifer. Those of us who understand the abortion question as one that is really a fundamental civil rights issue can live with somebody who paints with bright colors and sometimes speaks too loudly and brashly.

Cruz is a blood and guts politician. He recognizes that in today’s media environment there isn’t much room for quiet, thoughtful, nuanced, etc. Just ask Jeb Bush. The bottom line is that he is fighting for some things many of us treasure, such as the uniqueness of the American constitution (not just some hazy American exceptionalism), for life, and for religious liberty.

If he loses, let him do so because someone else has stood out more clearly and more attractively. I may not vote for him myself. But don’t let him lose because some of us felt the need to try and destroy him or make absolute statements about whether he could be supported under any circumstances. And let us attach some honor to his commitment in choosing public service and leadership over the million-plus dollars he could be making each year in the private sector as a lawyer.

There is no question in my mind. If it comes down to Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton, I will have zero problem pulling the lever for Cruz. Do I prefer life for the unborn or death at someone’s option? Would I rather see the Christian faith play a vital role in our democracy or be confined to a smaller and smaller space? Do I prefer government of real communities or do I favor Leviathan? These are the questions. Whether you like Cruz or not, he’s on the right side of them.

Don’t be so quick to alienate this man or to undercut him. He may be the only champion you have at the end.

Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D. is a university fellow and associate professor of political science at Union University. He is running for Congress in the eighth district of Tennessee. His campaign website is hunterbakerforcongress.com.

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