The conventional wisdom says that true conservatism cannot win a presidential election, but Ted Cruz challenged that claim today in Atlanta with a full-throated endorsement of vigorous conservative leadership. A hotel ballroom filled with conservative activists ate it up. Like Carly Fiorina before him, Cruz was unstinting in his critique of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. But he took it even further, practically taunting Republican congressional leadership.
Cruz, speaking from in front of the podium without notes, said he welcomes the large field of GOP competitors, and joked that it’s different on the other side.
“The Democrat debate consists of Hillary and the Chipotle clerk. [LAUGHTER] That’s not fair…Bernie Sanders has entered the race. [LAUGHTER] So, they have a wild-eyed socialist with ideas that are endangering American’s place in the world…and Bernie Sanders. [WILD LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE] They’re not even having a debate. They did plan to have a debate earlier, the problem was the invitation was emailed to Hillary.” (H/T to the Cruz joke writer. He killed, as they say in the comedy clubs.)
“There is a reason that the life, vibrancy, energy and excitement is with conservatives this year. Our country is in crisis,” he said, effortlessly shifting the mood in the room. He knows the RedState audience better than most, having spoken here in each of the event’s seven years.
“I want to talk to you as leaders of the conservative movement,” he said. “You’re informed thought leaders. Every person sitting here touches hundreds, touches thousands, touches tens of thousands. I wouldn’t be in the U.S. Senate if it were not for the leaders at RedState.”
The Cruzian defense of conservatism includes plenty of criticism of Republicans who either shrink from it when it matters most, or actively work against it in the halls of Congress.
“We’ve got to distinguish between campaign conservatives” and those who truly fight for our values, he said. “Not a single person in the debate said I’m an establishment, moderate squish….They run as us, but then they say, if you’re actually us, you’re unelectable.”
He encouraged audience members to “make a list of the 10 or 12 most important issues…and you decide based on the issues that are important to you…you make the list and ask of every candidate running whether he or she has stood up on those issues in any meaningful way.”
His own list includes Obamacare, executive amnesty, national debt, the First Amendment (both speech and religious liberty), the Second Amendment, the Fourth Amendment (NSA snooping), the 10th Amendment (Common Core), marriage, life, and standing with Israel.
He criticized Republicans who “ran for the hills” on the marriage issue, asking an imaginary Republican: “Did you come out with a mealy-mouth statement…’It’s the law of the land. Accept it, surrender and move on’?”
Republicans “keep winning and then we lose,” Cruz said. “We win elections and then the people we elect don’t do what they say. We won the House and virtually nothing changed….We won the Senate, we retired Harry Reid as majority leader. And what exactly has this new Republican majority accomplished?”[Audience shouts: “Nothing!”]
“It’s actually even worse than that,” Cruz said. “In this case, our team’s playing for the other side.”
He notes that in November 2014 Republicans won historic majorities in both houses, then passed a trillion dollar “cromnibus” plan filled with pork, funded Obamacare, amnesty…and confirmed Loretta Lynch as attorney general.
“Which of those decisions is one iota different than it would have been with Harry Reid and the Democrats? This is why we’re frustrated,” he said. “Don’t just tell me how you stood up to Democrats….Show me how you stood up to your own party.”
The U.S. senator from Texas recounted his stump-speech litany of what he’ll do on January 20, 2017, his first day in the Oval Office. Each line drew big applause and often a large chunk of the audience rose to their feet.
Ted Cruz’s first day in the Oval Office…
1. “Rescind every single illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama.” A man in the audience yelled, “We’re with you, Ted.”
Cruz shot back: “And that’s why we’re going to win.”
2. “Instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and to prosecute any criminal violations that are uncovered. The rule of law matters…regardless of which party is in power.”
3. Instruct every agency of the federal government “that you will cease today persecuting religious liberty in this country.”
He said the Little Sisters of the Poor “will receive a notice in the mail that the case against them has been dismissed” and an “invitation to come to the White House and tell their courageous story to the world.”
4. “Rip up and rescind this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal….If this deal goes into effect the Obama administration will become the world’s leading financier of Islamic terrorism” because the Iranian regime will have an extra $100 billion to fund terror attacks on Americans, Israelis and Europeans.
While Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush chided him for his rhetoric, Cruz said today, “Truth is not rhetoric. Nowhere did President Obama actually dispute the facts of what I said….If President Obama doesn’t like the rhetoric…then he should stop financing radical islamic terrorism.”
As if reinforcing his unstated thesis, Cruz said, “We will not win if we’re afraid to speak the truth…with a smile and from love, but with a conviction that the truth will set us free.”
5. Move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, “the once and eternal capital of Israel.” Candidates have repeatedly promised this, he notes, but didn’t follow through. He said this would send an important message to allies and enemies alike, a long-needed antidote to the Obama administration foreign policy.
“Every enemy of America is stronger after 6.5 years of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy,” he said.
Cruz wound up his remarks by bucking up the conservatives who have been beaten down by conventional wisdom.
“The media, and the Democrats…although I repeat myself — they love to tell us a conservative can’t win. Every time we nominate someone who’s not a strong conservative, we lose.”
With two young daughters — ages four and seven — the decision to run had serious consequences, he said. Ultimately, he was driven by duty.
“I’m in the best position,” Cruz said, “to rebuild that Reagan coalition. We win standing with hard-working men and women, a populist campaign against the bipartisan corruption of Washington….The New York Times said Cruz cannot win because the Washington elites despise him. I kind of thought that was the whole point of the campaign.” [BIG LAUGH]
He boasts that he has raised more hard money than Jeb Bush, although as most folks know, it’s the huge pool of Bush-supporting soft money that forms most of his war chest. But Cruz did garner cash from more than 175,000 donors who gave an average of $68.
“If we’re going to beat the Washington cartel…the only force strong enough is ‘We the People’…this is our time to take America back.”
In the Q & A session, Cruz rejected the idea that Republican leaders in DC were neither willing nor able to fight for conservative policies.
“Republican leadership is actually quite effective and quite willing to fight, they’re just not fighting for us. When it comes to cronyism and corporate welfare, leaders in both houses will fight with a knife in their teeth crawling over broken glass.” But they’re fighting to defend the cronyism.
The RedState audience gave him a standing ovation when he mentioned that recently he had “shared some thoughts about Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He actually had alleged on the Senate floor that McConnell had lied to him and others.
Washington is run by one party, Cruz said, “the party of Washington — the McConnell-Reid leadership team.”