Speaking Wednesday at the Weyrich Awards dinner, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz confirmed the opinion held by many that he is among the GOP's brightest rising stars.
In remarks that appeared largely off the cuff, Cruz explained to the assembled supporters of Coalitions for America, the group that sponsors the banquet thrown each year to honor the memory of legendary conservative activist and organizer Paul M. Weyrich, why conservatives should be hopeful about America's future.
It may seem an odd position to take, the Republican Party and conservatism seemingly having just been repudiated in the 2012 election. What Cruz and others understand is that before one can win an election one must first win the argument which, in the days and months leading up to the election, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former one-term governor of Massachusetts, failed to do. Moreover, as the junior senator from Texas observed, he not only failed to win the argument, he failed to make it.
In hindsight it is easy to see how Romney, rather than carry the fight to President Barack Obama across a whole set of issues, instead moved far to early to a so-called “prevent defense,” likely believing—as many conservatives did—that the country had already determined it wanted a change in leadership at the top. It is, however, an iron law of politics that you have to explain to the voters how things would be better under your leadership than they currently are. It is not enough to simply say the incumbent is doing a bad job; you must explain the change, something Romney for the most part failed to do.
Cruz argued passionately that the hope for the Republican Party's resurrection lies in two ideas: growth and opportunity. An agenda built on these twin pillars, he suggested, would be most persuasive to the voters that the GOP has the right ideas for America's future.
Right now the GOP has been recaptured by bean counters, obsessed with the deficit and the debt, who are more concerned about getting the federal budget in balance without tax increases than they are about the economic health of the country. A strategy to balance the budget, while helpful, is not the same thing as an agenda for economic growth. The problem with the bad economy is the impact it is having on the lives of everyday Americans. Rising prices, a stagnant housing market, increases in the cost of energy and systemic joblessness will not alone be fixed by making sure federal receipts match federal expenditures. Under Reagan, the government ran what at the time appeared to be significant deficits but also experienced record economic growth, approaching 7.5 percent in the first year after the recession that began under Jimmy Carter ended.
Cruz is right, as is Obama for that matter that it is these problems that are foremost on the minds of the American people and it is to these problems that people want solutions. As long as what Obama is proposing won't work and the GOP fails to present a convincing progrowth agenda to the American people, the gridlock will continue.
He is also right that the Republicans and conservatives need to get serious about taking about how their public policy prescriptions will make America the land of opportunity once again. Conservative solutions, he pointed out, work, while liberal solutions don't. As Reagan and Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich said many times and in many ways, the liberals declared war on poverty and then allowed poverty to win because their solutions made people captive to state support rather than liberate their creative abilities. Welfare, as conceived by the liberals, didn't work. Welfare reform, with its tough work requirements as put forward by the conservatives, worked beyond even its earliest supporters' fondest hopes.
Cruz has the right ideas and, of equal importance, knows how to talk about them effectively. His obvious respect for the nation's institutions is matched by a love of liberty and a belief in the best parts of the human spirit comes through in a manner that is infectious. With Cruz, and fellow senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul and Mike Lee and other Washington newcomers setting the pace for conservatives and for the GOP the future looks bright indeed.