PJ Media Symposium: Will Ted Cruz Be a Plus or Minus for Republicans in the Midterm Elections?

David Steinberg

Thomas SowellAnn Coulter, and Kim Strassel all took exception last week to the conservative movement -- nominally led by Ted Cruz – which intends to primary GOP incumbents who do not align as strongly as Cruz does with conservatism. This appears to be, or at least felt like, the first such anti-conservative stance taken by Sowell, making it the most jarring of the three. Wrote Sowell:

The basic, brutal reality is that the federal government can do whatever it wants to do, if nobody stops it. The Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision shows that we cannot depend on it to protect our freedom. Nor will Congress, as long as the Democrats control the Senate.

The most charitable interpretation of Ted Cruz and his supporters is that they are willing to see the Republican party weakened in the short run, in hopes that they will be able to take it over in the long run, and set it on a different path as a more purified conservative party.

Neglecting the remainder of the passage for the moment, note that Sowell’s first sentence above is factually correct, and is also the pivotal information required for this debate. The sentence is not Sowell’s opinion, but a truth about men governing men: no document and no legislature can ever function as a fail-safe defense of the individual’s rights. Whether in the “state of nature” or under a “consent of the governed” state, one group of folks can always do “whatever it wants to do if nobody stops it.” Your best hope, the strongest safeguard of your rights -- superseding even the bearing of arms -- that could ever exist falls to the culture you live within. If the citizens report being ever-ready to “stop it,” your rights stand a better chance of remaining secured.

Presently, the United States does not have a strong enough culture to uphold the individual’s life, liberty, and property as the highest feature of government. The decline of America -- economically, and in regards to respect for the rule of law as based on the individual’s rights -- has occurred because the countrymen allowed for a decline.

The citizens are not producing the pressure necessary for a turnaround. Yet the establishment GOP’s strategy for returning the country to prosperity is to work with the culture as it is. This path relies on a boggling number of troubling or irrational assumptions, considering the confidence with which its advocates present their arguments.

If the GOP members being primaried are uncomfortable being associated with Ted Cruz, presumably they are comfortable being considered less conservative than Cruz. These incumbents may be hiding their conservatism based on some calculation only they understand, and surely a legislator who consistently measures how close he can safely stand to the Constitution is not someone committed to the rule of law. On the other hand, these incumbents may honestly believe in maintaining a distance from conservatism, and thus are comfortable with the current culture which has led us to a potential American nadir.

They are a lose-lose, and that’s before taking a measure of the opponent. Eric Holder has on more than one occasion instructed state attorneys general to ignore the law. The president has unilaterally changed Obamacare eighteen times. When the adversary is lawless, a GOP-controlled Senate of the calculating or the less-adhered to the Constitution is just another bump in the road. Sowell, Strassel, and Coulter, as pessimistic as they all might be regarding the country’s odds for recovery, are still irrationally positive on the nation’s prospects without a slate of constitutionally committed oath-takers.

I wish the national resurrection were as simple as “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.” But culture trumps legislature.

Whether the GOP claims a Senate majority or continues as a minority, trusting the zeitgeist that distances itself from the Constitution to produce change is not simply a questionable strategy, it is an illogical, self-negating one. What reason exists for harboring any expectations of rapidly shrinking deficits, a restored commitment to the individual, and a sane foreign policy without a dispatching of the culture that diminished all of this?

Further, the acceptance that our culture cannot grow fonder of the Constitution and must be dealt with “as is” represents a new iteration of “the bigotry of soft expectations.” Americans can reject incorrect assumptions and embrace reason, just like anybody else.

Sowell was wrong in his assessment of Cruz’s supporters: we do not want to temporarily weaken the party with purposes of purifying it, we want to immediately strengthen both the party and the country by reestablishing the culture’s commitment to individual rights.

If America does not grow more comfortable with conservatism, the decline will continue.

David Steinberg came into political writing via time spent working in production and development in Hollywood. His biggest influences now include talk show host Mark Levin, economist Thomas Sowell, and Fox’s Megyn Kelly. In his own words, these are people who “simply do not lose arguments because they only present inarguable truth.” His new PJ Media blog is Self-Evident.

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Bill Straub

Let’s stipulate that Sen. Ted Cruz left quite an impression on the Senate during his first year in office. Anyone who can unite in animus such disparate characters as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John McCain, not to mention the entire Democratic caucus, certainly bears notice.

But, frankly, Cruz will wind up being neither a plus nor a minus for the GOP in the upcoming midterm elections. His appeal, or lack thereof, won’t affect the outcome of a single campaign. His presence will carry all the influence that a mosquito has on the sunrise or, if you’re a true conservative, all the sway man has on global climate change.

There exists a temptation to overstate Sen. Cruz’ political clout at this early stage. Many observers credit him with wielding as much influence as the senator seems to attribute to himself. But it’s unlikely Cruz will swing a single vote one way or another.

Think about it rationally for a moment. How many voters are likely to step into a booth next November and ask themselves, “Whom would Sen. Cruz want me to vote for?’’ It’s much more likely they will be asking themselves, “Who is Ted Cruz and why in the world am I thinking about him?’’

Most voters – check that, almost all voters – have no idea who Sen. Ted Cruz is or what he stands for. The exception would be Texas and there it’s already pretty clear that Sen. John Cornyn is breezing toward re-election despite an ill-advised primary challenge from Rep. Steve Stockman, who attempted to pick up and immediately fumbled the Tea Party banner. And can anyone tell me who the Democrats are running?

Cruz may perform some of the tasks many politicians perform at this time of year – attend a fundraiser or two, make an appropriately supportive speech, shake hands in front of the cameras. But in no instance will he affect the outcome. People at this stage are not voting for a Cruz surrogate in either the primary or general election.

Take Kentucky, my old stomping grounds, a state drawing a lot of attention this year. McConnell has drawn opposition from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, brandishing the Tea Party flag. Despite reports that the primary is close, McConnell maintains a substantial lead. Ted Cruz has nothing to do with it – McConnell is simply viewed as the godfather of the Kentucky Republican Party.

The general election could – and I stress could – be tighter, with the GOP leader facing Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Bluegrass secretary of state. Cruz won’t win or lose that election. It will be close because, to be honest, while many people have voted for McConnell in the past, very few folks actually like him, and Cruz has nothing to do with it.

So, while it’s easy to portray Cruz as an outsized, John Wayne-type figure in Election 2014, voters in states like South Dakota, Colorado and North Carolina really don’t give a rat’s behind who he supports.

Now 2016? That could be another matter.

Bill Straub is PJ Media's Washington correspondent and is a former White House correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.