Roger’s Rules

Epiphany: What Was Cruz or Rubio Is Now Cruz or Trump

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz CNN Republican Presidential Debate, Las Vegas, America - 15 Dec 2015 (Rex Features via AP Images)

With the next Republican debate scheduled for later this month, I thought it might be worth stepping back to ask about the state of play on the political field.  The first item of business is

TRUMPERY. I last wrote at any length about The Donald at the end of July when he was first really soaring in the polls.  “I don’t think Donald Trump will be the GOP candidate in 2016,” I wrote then, and I still believe that.

But I also continue to believe, as I said then, that Donald Trump “has raised some issues that the high and mighty dispensers of conventional wisdom would do well to ponder.” Sure, Trump is the walking epitome of vulgarity, a veritable Platonic Form of the gilded comb-over.  But what repels the Volvo-driving, Ivy-League-aspiring, SNL-watching, post-Christian, gun-hating, illiberal liberal elite often plays well in flyover country where, mirabile dictu, many folks who still possess the franchise reside. They kind of liked it when Donald Trump said, à propos John McCain, that he preferred war heroes who did not get captured by the enemy.  They liked it when he called Rosie O’Donnell a “fat pig”: between us, they think she is a fat pig, too. The mot about the dishy Megyn Kelly bleeding from “the eyes or wherever” was kind of gross, but CNN got it exactly wrong when they said that Trump’s comment “draws outrage.”

What it drew were titters, partly of admiration (in the old sense), partly of relief.  At a time when politicians, like academics, like journalists, are enjoined to walk about on a field of eggshells, worried about offending feministsblackscripplesgaysmexicansinjunsmuslimsweirdosofalldescriptions, Trump’s bravado was . . . refreshing.  “He can’t say that” screamed the Minders: “But he just did say it” chortled the insensitive masses. “What are you going to do about it?”

Jeb Bush, who once upon a time was a serious candidate for the presidency, called Trump “a jerk.” According to the RealClearPolitics average of the polls, this morning Trump is at 35%, Bush is at 4.3%. I’m just saying.

So one thing I got wrong back in July concerned the role that Jeb Bush would play in the drama Donald Trump had concocted.  I thought that in the light of day, which is to say by around Christmas time, the Minders would have been able to reimpose some semblance of the  conventional, politically correct order. The adults, the mature folks, the people who understood the give and take, or maybe it’s the take and take, of life in the beltway: they would cluster round the most boring, I mean the “most electable,” candidate, i.e., Jeb, and he would be the chief beneficiary of the entertainment that was Donald Trump’s latest reality show. It hasn’t worked out that way.

But I believe I was correct in my final prediction, namely that Trump’s sudden, unexpected, impossible rise told us something far different from the narrative woven by the Minders, by our masters in Washington. They said, they are saying still, that Trump’s success tells us chiEfly how stupid people are, how much they need to be guided by the suits in Washington, the blowhards in academia, the preening self-important megaphones in the media.  “If you believe that,” I concluded back in July, “you are going to be profoundly disappointed come November 2016.”

TRUSTED. That’s still right, I think, but a few things have changed in the intervening months.  Some mists have cleared. After the Republican debate in November, I concluded that the Republican candidate would be one of two men: Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.  The debate coming up could change the calculation, but as of the morning of the Feast of the Epiphany, i.e., Twelfth Night, i.e, today, I think the race has come down to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.  The Minders, by and large, have decamped from JEB¡ to Rubio, but my sense is that, despite some important support, Rubio’s tires are not getting much traction.  The oil slick preventing contact might be immigration — one of the issues of the day, thanks partly to Donald Trump, thanks also to Master Obama — and it might, at least in part,  be some sticky residue from a silo marked “Sugar,” but for whatever reason Rubio, the young, dashing, glib, Kennedyesque golden or at least pewter poster boy, does not seem to be catching fire.

Which means (if I am right) that the contest has come down to Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.  If the world weren’t in such parlous shape — thanks, Barack! — I’d give them about even odds. As it is, we are living with the aftermath of Mr. “Fundamentally Transformed,” and there is going to be a lot more of that before we finally manage to prise him loose from the levers of diktat and call in the damage-control teams. Absent the dangerous mess that Obama has bequeathed us, I’d reckon people might go in for a flutter on Trump.  President Trump would certainly be entertaining. But no: thanks in large part to the criminally negligent policy of Barack Hussein Obama, the world has become a frighteningly dangerous place. He has “fundamentally transformed the United States of America,” all right, and the world has sat up and taken notice.  And that means (again, if I am right) that people are going to warm to Ted Cruz’s clever slogan TrusTED: Trust Ted.  People do. Not our Minders.  Not anyone in academia. But many, many others do.

So fasten your seat belts, get out your ear plugs: all those voices skirling about how “extreme,” “dangerous,” “unlikeable” he is, how he can’t get along even with people in his own party (“So how could he govern effectively?”): the anti-Ted express is stoking its engines and is about the set off at breakneck speed down the rails, disgorging bilious smoke and mirrors. But if Cruz’s ground game is effective and his message is steady, I think the “Trust Ted” message will get through.  What a lot of people who hate Cruz don’t  understand is that many people think it’s a good thing that he irritates the Washington establishment, what he calls  the “Washington Cartel.” Those that are part of it, or part of its baggage train, can’t see how much the rest of us loath and despise it. So Ted’s allergy to, e.g., Mitch McConnell is a feature, not a bug.

Now, things might look different after the next debate. Let’s see.  Full disclosure: I thought Mitt Romney was going to win.  And I am on record — and have a box of cigars weighing in the balance — contending that Hillary Clinton will not be the Democratic nominee (almost no one agrees with me about that, but we’ll see!).

On another occasion I’ll expatiate more fully on why I think Ted Cruz will be the nominee (and, if I am right about that, why he will be president), but for now I’ll boil it down to one word: Constitution, as in the U.S. Constitution.  Ted Cruz respects it and would do everything in his power to restore it to the center of American political life, which means (among other things) he would govern through Congress, not over its head, and that he would limit executive power, not expand it illegitimately by deploying an alphabet soup of “czars” and regulatory stooges to impose by fiat what he could not effect by legislation. I frankly believe that people are sick of being governed by a narcissistic radical who hates America and holds anyone who disagrees with him in contempt. Donald Trump may have been an effective ice breaker. Ted Cruz will lead the troops  ashore to plant the flag of America’s new aspiration. That’s what, as I think about the journey of the Magi, I see unfolding.  Let’s see if I am right.