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Cruz’s conservatism

Sandman's Musing | Monday, October 7, 2013

For someone who so clearly wants to be president, you would think Sen. Ted Cruz would know a little more about how presidential elections are won and lost.
You would think the former debate champion would know that winning votes in a Republican-dominated state like his Texas is strategically different from winning votes in this bipartisan country of ours.
You would assume the well-educated lawyer would know presidential elections are won and lost at the margins, with victories and defeats coming at the hands of independent voters who shift between parties from one election to the next.
You would think the man who cites Ronald Reagan as his political idol would have a firmer grasp of the ways in which the Great Communicator appealed to a wide range of Americans, not just the extreme wing of his party.
Talking about the government shutdown on CNN on Sunday morning, Cruz said Democrats’ jabs against Republicans in Congress are an indicator that Republicans are “winning the argument” among the American people that “Obamacare isn’t working.”
What Cruz fails to understand is that whenever the shutdown ends, it will never be looked back upon and seen as the argument over Obamacare. The task of defunding and repealing Obamacare was never going to be accomplished through a sloppy game plan pieced together by a handful of irrational Republicans that tried to sabotage the federal budget.
Repealing the president’s health care law is an objective that requires a well-thought out strategy executed over several months.
Whether or not the Cruz-led wing of the Republican Party is on the side of most Americans (who disapprove of the president’s health care law) is irrelevant when those same Americans see Republicans as more blameworthy for the shutdown than Democrats.
This isn’t to say Democrats or President Obama are off the hook in the current national embarrassment. Polls also make clear Americans blame both parties for the shutdown. And why shouldn’t they? The current strategy being pursued by extreme Republicans with regard to Obamacare may be ill-advised, but the “I won’t negotiate” approach favored by the left has never been a mark of sound leadership either.
If there’s one thing the current government shutdown reaffirms, it is how clueless Congress and the president are about what Americans expect from their leaders.
The point here is that the faction of the Republican Party linking Obamacare to the federal budget has picked a fight that should not have been fought. Most frustrating of all for Republicans, it’s coming at a time when the Republican Party should be making gains among voters. Americans’ overall disapproval of the health care law puts Republicans in a prime position to win congressional seats in 2014, if only the extreme wing would show a little patience.
It’s as if Ted Cruz is the rookie quarterback who inserted himself in the game and started throwing Hail Marys against the team with the worst run defense in the league. The other team doesn’t have to stop your running back when you continue to chuck it down the field and try to win the game in a single play every time you get the ball.
Advocates of Cruz and his political allies will point to that faction of the Republican Party and laud them for being true conservatives, for taking a principled stand against what they see as a bad law.
The problem is, when principle confronts a political impossibility, principle won’t get very far.
With two-thirds of the elected branches of the federal government controlled by Democrats, Obamacare is not going to be eliminated by a Republican Party faction’s principled stand. It may win Republicans some victories in the country’s overwhelmingly conservative districts, but it is certainly not the type of approach that is going to attract the majority of moderate voters and send a Republican to the White House in 2016.
William F. Buckey, Jr., the American political writer, once said conservatism “takes into account reality.”
For someone who so clearly wants to be America’s next great conservative president, you would think Ted Cruz would’ve received the message.

John Sandberg lives in Fisher Hall and is a senior studying political science. He can be reached at jsandbe1@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.