Ted Cruz supporters, and I am one, have a decision to make.
My story on this decision starts on May 20, 2014, the night I had the great good fortune to attend a small dinner with Sen. Ted Cruz, to talk strategy and policy. Personally, I was skeptical of him and his chances in a potential presidential bid, which fluttered over the entire conversation like a smart, subtle butterfly.
His replies to my questions floored me. Why on Earth would he run for president when he’d been in the Senate less than two years? Because, he said, he was looking for someone else who was fighting the conservative fight on more than one or two of the major issues of the day – ObamaCare, Amnesty, a rational foreign policy based on peace through strength – and just literally wasn’t seeing anyone else doing it. Other than my boss at the time, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, I had to flatly admit that was true.
How could he possibly hope to win, I asked? Everyone had counted him out of the Senate bid as well, he said, and he defeated the Establishment favorite and went on to victory in the fall in a bad GOP year.
Republican moderates said every four years, “We need to nominate someone who can win” – and then when the party nominates their choice, they lose, over and over, Ford, Dole, McCain, Romney, because they don’t excite the base or draw in skeptical Independents and Democrats with a compelling vision. It was exactly what I had been arguing for years in academics and beyond.
I came out of that dinner a believer. I’ve been one ever since, even when my belief was tested, as inevitably it was.
Today, all of us who believe Sen. Cruz would make a great president – and conservatives generally – need to decide whether or not we support Donald Trump, now that he is the almost-certain Republican nominee. Some staunch conservatives have decided they can’t – to the point that they may help orchestrate a third-party challenge on Trump’s right.
While I respect that view, I don’t share it. Here are five reasons for a Cruz supporter, and a constitutional conservative more generally, to back Trump, for whatever they’re worth:
1) You had me at “Hillary.”
A third party bid all but assures that Hillary Clinton, Richard Nixon with breasts, will become president. As of today, Trump has the best shot at beating Hillary – and it isabsolutely possible, stop saying it’s not.
Republicans who believe Donald Trump is really as bad as Hillary Clinton simultaneouslyargue that he is lying about what he would do on immigration, abortion, and gun control, but not lying about what he would do on trade and taxes. (If you are more sympathetic to his trade-skeptic and tax-cutting ways, by the way, this double-edged argument actually cuts the wrong way in both directions.) Likewise they assert that in our post-Constitutional era, Hillary would be gridlocked by Congress, while Trump would not be. Would she not have a pen and a phone, like Obama?