Ted Cruz delivered a great 30-minute (without notes we might add) speech at the American Principles Project gala last week.
The speech was part incisive analysis of the results of the 2012 election and part pep rally for those in the room who were disheartened by Romney’s defeat. But most importantly, it was the outline of a path forward for the Republican Party – if national Republican leaders will only take Cruz’s counsel.
The first and perhaps most important point Ted Cruz made was, “We didn’t win the argument [for conservative principles]. We didn’t even make the argument.”
Cruz made the point, as we did during the campaign, “Why did we lose? It wasn’t as the media would tell you: because the American people embraced big government, Barack Obama’s spending and debt and taxes. … That wasn’t what happened. I’m going to suggest to you a very simple reason why we lost the election: We didn’t win the argument. We didn’t even make the argument.”
By not even “making the argument” for conservative principles as Cruz rightly put it, Romney and the Republicans ceded the high ground on almost every issue to Obama and the Democrats.
What Cruz left unspoken -- but we won’t -- was: If Republican candidates do not believe in their own party principles and platform, why should anyone else?
This is a point that is absolutely crucial to the future of the Republican Party – the Party must nominate candidates who will “make the argument,” but that’s not going to happen if Republicans don’t nominate candidates who believe in the principles behind the argument.
One of the most interesting points Cruz made was one we have often raised a little less politely as we said time and again during the Republican Primary Election season that the GOP had become “the Party of stupid” for allowing liberal so-called journalists to run their debates.
“How many of you have heard of the phrase war on women? What an utterly ridiculous deception,” Cruz asked the audience.
“They [Obama] ran a presidential campaign suggesting that Republicans want to take away contraceptives. Now, we saw this attack foreshadowing when George Stephanopoulos out of nowhere asked this random question at the debate – and by the way, why on earth do we have people like George Stephanopoulos moderating the Republican debate? The notion that Republicans want to take away anyone’s contraception is absolute and complete nonsense. I do not know a single Republican on the face of the planet, who wants to ban contraceptives. Listen, my wife and I have two little girls. I am thrilled we don’t have seventeen.”
The so-called war on women “was entirely about religious freedom,” Cruz observed, yet Romney and the Republicans never even made the argument.
Ted Cruz also put this analysis in terms of attracting Hispanic voters, saying that Republicans have been wrong when it comes to Hispanics and that the Hispanic community is “profoundly conservative.”
So why wouldn’t they vote Republican? Republicans are delivering a message that they obviously don’t believe in themselves, that’s why.
Cruz then challenged the audience to go home. Turn on the TV. And as a Republican comes on the screen, talking on the subject of race and class, turn off the volume, then watch his or her body language.
“Nobody is going to vote for you if they think you don’t like them,” noted Cruz. “I think Republicans need to remain a party that supports securing the border and stopping illegal immigration and at the same time, welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants, champions legal immigration. Americans by choice, that’s what Ronald Reagan called legal immigrants.”
“Most Republicans think we are wrong,” Cruz said, implying that many Republicans have bought into the idea long promoted by the Democratic Party that Democrats are the Party that cares more about the poor and minorities.
Cruz’s proposal to break the Democratic Party’s lock on being the Party of “the little guy” was one that is reminiscent of Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan’s economic optimism, that Cruz called ‘Opportunity Conservatism.”
“Republicans are and should be a party of entrepreneurs and of small business, of those climbing to the top, seeking to start a company in their garage and topple the big businesses,” said Cruz, noting that Republicans are not a party of big business, because big business generally supports big government.
We are always just a little skeptical of hyphenated or qualified conservatism, but Cruz’s point was about how we deliver the message, not the principles behind the message. What he said was, “We need to conceptualize, we need to articulate conservative domestic policy with a laser focus on opportunity, on easing the means of ascent up the economic ladder.”
And here’s the part that Republicans, nationally, need to pay attention to – in Cruz’s analysis the story we conveyed to millions of voters in the 2012 campaign was that “47 percent” of Americans are stuck in a static world and that Republicans don’t care about them.
As Cruz wisely pointed out, when we embraced that 47 percent comment, we also embraced “the Democrat notion that there is a fixed and static pie. The rich are the rich, the poor are the poor, and all that matters is redistributing from one to the other.”
Could there be an idea more antithetical to American principles and the optimistic conservatism of Ronald Reagan?
Ted Cruz concluded his remarks by reminding everyone that, “It took Jimmy Carter to give us Ronald Reagan, and I am convinced the most long-lasting legacy of Barack Obama is going to be a new generation of leaders in the Republican Party standing up and defending liberty and getting back to our values…”
Those leaders, Ted Cruz among them, are rising. Now it is up to us to clear out the deadwood and failed leadership that is standing in their way.