By Robert Tracinski, The Federalist
What is Ted Cruz running for? I mean, he’s running for president, of course. But for what reason is he running? What is his goal, how is he selling himself to the voters—and what does he want to do with the office if he gets it?
The Federalist asked me to go see his official announcement speech at Liberty University. It wasn’t likely to contain a lot of surprises; Ted Cruz is a known entity, unlike another first-term Senator who ran for president. But I wanted to see what he would emphasize and what message he would send about how he intends to run.
Cruz is a very articulate guy—quite at ease with an audience, and with no need for a TelePrompTer—so it’s no surprise that he gave us the phrase that sums up his campaign. He described it as a movement of “courageous conservatives.”
To back that up, the whole middle of his speech was a complete rundown of the dream agenda of the conservative base.
He promised to “repeal every word of ObamaCare” and also to “repeal every word of Common Core,” the federal government’s power grab over local school curriculum. This is not quite accurate because Common Core has never actually been written down as a law. But he got around to that later, promising to reverse the current president’s practice of using executive power to bypass Congress.
He promised to secure the borders (but also to make sure that America is “welcoming to those who come to achieve the American dream”). He promised to defend the Second Amendment. He promised to push for a flat tax. And to “abolish the IRS.” Really.
Those are just the highlights. Put it this way: I’m going to have to eat a salad for lunch, because I feel like I just gorged on red meat.
There were a few items that might seem surprising, reflecting the more libertarian aspect of the right’s agenda. Cruz promised an unregulated Internet, in a clear jab at Net Neutrality, and he promised to protect our right to privacy against government surveillance.
Cruz didn’t say much about foreign policy, except for declaring that he would not accept a nuclear Iran. But within a few sentences, he talked about “American exceptionalism,” about being a “shining city on a hill,” and—in case we didn’t get the message already—called us the “indispensable nation.” His promise to “stand with Israel” was one of the biggest applause lines of the speech and was met, interestingly, with chants of “USA! USA!” On the right, it seems that support for Israel has become an issue of American patriotism.
In case you’re skeptical about whether he can achieve any of this, he ended with a rundown of the “unimaginable” achievements of Ronald Reagan: lowering the top income tax rate from 70% to 28%, reigniting economic growth, winning the Cold War, and so on. “And yet, with the grace of God, that’s exactly what happened…. Compared to that, repealing ObamaCare and abolishing the IRS ain’t all that tough.”
He declared: “The power of the American people when we rise up and stand for liberty knows no bounds.” That’s when he gave us the line about “courageous conservatives.” So his message to the right is, if I may put it this way: “Yes, we can.”
You can draw your own conclusions from that. We’ll have time later to discuss whether Cruz is electable in the general election and whether he can really achieve what he claims he can. But now we have confirmation of the niche he’s carving out in the primaries: he’s the guy who promises to deliver the whole agenda of the right.
Photo credit: DonkeyHotey @ Flickr