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February 09, 2016

The Case Against Marco Rubio And For Ted Cruz

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It’s easy to pick Ted Cruz if the choices are, well, everyone else still running for the GOP nomination. As I refuse to insult my fellow citizens by entertaining the idea that Donald Trump is a serious candidate worthy of debate, I will focus on why conservatives should pick Cruz over Marco Rubio.

First, let me say it if it isn’t clear…if I were a Republican who could vote in a GOP primary, I’d vote Cruz. He’s not my first choice, in fact he’s my 5th of this cycle, but here we are.

It’s Not Just Amnesty
The easy knock on Rubio is his flip-flop-flip from 2010. At that time he ran against “comprehensive immigration reform” with a pathway to citizenship and then embraced it when Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama came courting him. Now he still supports amnesty (by his own 2010 definition) but swears this time he’s all about security first (which was very different than what he said in 2013). If you believe this latest iteration, well sometimes hope triumphs over experience.

But it’s not just amnesty. Rubio is a big-government “compassionate conservative” who is very fond of using the tax code to push society in directions he likes. I would never say he’s not a conservative but it’s not a brand of conservatism I adhere to. We’ve tried his approach before and government expanded and expanded.

On ObamaCare he’s once again shown his big government instincts. Is the approach he’s outlined better than what we have now? Yes. Could there be a lower bar? I doubt it. Bobby Jindal, one of the GOP’s leading health care figures, called Rubio’s approach of turning health insurance into a new government entitlement, “ObamaCare lite”. Yes, Jindal has subsequently endorsed Rubio but his critique still stands.

On foreign policy, if you think someone who supported the war in Libya and thinks we need to remove Assad (and deal with the US occupation that would be required) is the man to lead the nation, then Rubio is for you. If you think we’ve learned or should have learned something from multiple wars in the Muslim world over the last 15 years, then you should look elsewhere.

The Establishment
Rubio supporters will say it’s laughable that Rubio is part of “The Establishment” (however you chose to define it). For purposes of this post, I will concede only an insane, crazy person would think such a thing about Rubio.

When pressed on why he’s not a member of “The Establishment”, Rubio points to his race against Charlie Crist and not waiting his turn to run for President. Notably absent from this defense and any offer of proof I’ve ever seen are actual policy objections. The only disagreement I’ve seen anyone suggest there is between him and “The Establishment” is on how quickly Marco Rubio should rise to the top. There’s no suggestion of any major philosophical disagreements on substantive issues, just on where in line Rubio should be. Sure he’s more conservative than “The Establishment” on things like guns and abortion. So was…George W. Bush. Do you want to argue he’s not an “establishment” figure?

Is Rubio "The Establishment's" first choice? No. Jeb is next in line. Are members of "The Establishment" comfortable with him as a second choice? I'd say it seems so. Is there any doubt that in a Rubio-Cruz showdown "The Establishment" would go with Rubio? So, yeah.

Yes, Rubio supporters can trot out his Heritage Action score but that only shows he goes along, not that he’s going to lead anywhere. They simply can't show a single time he's bucked the party, not just with a vote but by publicly putting his neck on the line. I simply don't believe that when push comes to shove a President Rubio will be any more forceful in breaking up the consensus than Senator Rubio has been.

The reasons to support Ted Cruz

As I said, Cruz was not my first choice by a long-shot but here we are.

His past support for significantly higher legal immigration levels, his lack of details on an ObamaCare replacement and my general preference for governors give me pause. But assuming he doesn’t come up with a Rubio-like ObamaCare replacement plan, I’m willing to take the chance. And ultimately every vote is an act of faith informed by past behavior.

I am however heartened by his lack of enthusiasm for remaking the Mideast into some sort of liberty oriented paradise. It's not happening and I'm not willing to see thousands of Americans killed or wounded trying to prove a failed point.

Mostly it’s Cruz’s “behavior” that is the line of attack many of his detractors focus on. It’s something I like a lot.

Cruz is a bastard, of that I have no doubt. But he’s our bastard. He fights the fights I want fought. Has he won many of these fights? No. Does that matter to me? No.
He’s a single freshman Senator swimming against the tide of his party. How exactly was he supposed to win? What he has spent his time in the Senate doing is preparing the battlefield. He’s laid down markers forcing people to take sides and identifying the terms of the battle.

I understand why this alone isn’t enough for people to vote for him but the reality is if you want someone to change DC and the direction of the country, you have to elect someone who has shown they understand that there’s a problem, someone who has shown a willingness to point at people in his own “leadership” and say, “they have no clothes”.

Cruz’s detractors will say that he can’t get along and make deals. I say, good. Yes, deals will have to be made but too often the deals that are made are being made by people who agree on too much to begin with. I want a guy like Cruz who isn’t buying into the basic assumptions of DC and the permanent government class. I want a guy who sees himself as representing a group of people opposed to many of the bi-partisan, political class assumptions that underlie so much of what happens in DC.

Cruz opponents have claimed there’s so much bad blood between him and the GOP leadership in Congress he’ll never get what he wants. This argument amuses me to no end. After years of rolling over for Harry Reid and Barack Obama, the Republicans in Congress are finally going to find their spine by opposing…a President Cruz? That’s says more about Republicans in Congress and their supposed conservatism than it does Ted Cruz. And if you’re telling me this means a Republican President might veto a bloated spending bill passed by a Republican Congress, I say, “Bring it on!”

And when it comes to the ability to move legislation, the only example we have for Rubio was a disaster and one he's walked away from. That doesn't fill me with confidence for a potential President Rubio.

“But it’s an act!”, they’ll say. “Cruz’s resume is as conventional as they come!”


I don’t mind a guy pretending to be with me in spirit (if that's what's going on and I'm not saying it is) as long as he’s with me in action. If we’ve learned nothing else about Ted Cruz it’s that he’s very protective of his political brand and that brand isn’t “go along to get along”.

Will a President Cruz disappoint me and other conservatives? Sure. Will he have to deal with the reality that Presidents have to accept some lousy things to keep the machine working? Sure. And will events ultimately intrude on the fine theories of a campaign in ways we can’t imagine and won’t like? Absolutely.

But as we’re repeatedly told, there are no perfect candidates and you have to take the good with the bad. On balance, there’s far more good with Ted Cruz and the potential for more than with anyone else currently on offer.

Cruz 2016!

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posted by DrewM. at 10:45 AM

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