Despite the fact that Donald Trump is poised to sweep his home state of New York and plausibly several other New England states in its wake, the surge of Texas senator Ted Cruz has given actual conservatives reason to be cautiously optimistic. His well-oiled delegate collection machine has been cleaning Trump’s clock in recent non-primary states like Colorado and North Dakota. Furthermore, if Trump fails to clinch the nomination outright, Cruz’s team has loaded The Donald’s delegate slate with double agents who will turn on him in a contested convention once they are unbound. That Cruz, he has a very good brain. Meanwhile, Trump’s response has been the usual: Trumpertantrums and more Trumpertantrums.
Riding this wave of hope, some are daring to wonder out loud if Cruz might pull off not only the Republican nomination, but a general election victory as well. With an increasingly unpopular Hillary Clinton as the presumptive nominee, the Democrat party could be in for an upset. Is it possible? Could Cruz usher in a new golden age of conservatism?
As usual, in typical Puddleglum fashion, I feel compelled to throw a wet blanket on things and remind everyone that most recent polls still show Hillary beating Cruz, sometimes outside the margin of error. Moreover, this is not a bad reflection of the country’s electoral and demographic makeup, which is becoming bluer by the year. That’s just a fact. And the liberal media is already projecting their image of Cruz to the public: a creepy, crazy guy with a weird face that nobody likes. The nastiness will only intensify if he becomes the nominee. And, sad but true, it will sway far more people than any policy position.
But it doesn’t matter, because this election is not about beating Hillary Clinton. It never was.
I know, I know, Cruz says it is. Of course he does. He has to say it, and he has to believe it. Something would be wrong if he didn’t. And God bless those volunteers and voters who’ve rallied around him with unshakable confidence that he will be our next president. They are more hopeful than I, I who am most like Doubting Thomas of the twelve. “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Come along boys, let’s get it over with.You may ask, “If this election isn’t about Hillary Clinton, then what IS it about?” I’ll tell you: It’s about saving the soul of the Republican party.
Cruz correctly touts the fact that he performs much better than Trump against Hillary in the polls, who is miserably and consistently trounced by her. He repeatedly emphasizes that Trump would be a disaster, because he can’t win. I submit that Trump would be a disaster, because there’s an outside chance that he will win.
I close my eyes and try to picture Donald Trump: real estate mogul, proto-fascist, warthog-faced buffoon, tin-plated, overbearing, swaggering dictator with delusions of godhood, in the White House. I cannot. I don’t think I want to.
Even if Trump does not win, he would be legitimized by winning the nomination. People who don’t support him now would force themselves to take a second look, because we’ve got to beat Hillary after all, and he can’t be that bad. As if enough formerly sensible people hadn’t already boarded the Trump train, thousands more would be added to that number. And whether Trump lost or won, conservatism would lose.
But if Cruz wins the nomination, it will show that there are people who still understand what the word “conservatism” means, who can look at Donald Trump and see at a glance that he is anything but. Moreover, it will send a clear message to the GOP that we are no longer content with candidates like John Kasich, who has no respect for religious liberty and has openly approved of Obama’s SCOTUS nominee. (Remember the old “It doesn’t matter if the nominee isn’t our favorite Republican because this is all about the Supreme Court” argument? There it went.) Do I think Kasich would win the general election anyway? Not really, but as I said, that’s not the point.
I’m not ruling out the long-shot possibility of a Cruz general election win. But we must face the fact that it is a long shot. We must face the prospect of eight years of Hillary Clinton, as stomach-turning as it sounds. But understand this: If Ted Cruz becomes the standard-bearer of the GOP, if only for a little while, the real victory will already have been won. The GOP will have some semblance of a spine. The white working class will begin to forget the man who despises them almost as much as he loves himself. The earnest, agonized evangelical voter will be able to vote with a clean conscience.
And that is a noble cause.