Ted Cruz’s decisive victory in Wisconsin is a key building block in the Trump Wall—the wall to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee. It must not, however, be taken as evidence that Cruz himself is someone around whom the party should now rally. That, we believe would be a disastrous mistake. Thus, while a good deal of ink has been spilled in assessing the #NeverTump movement, it is now past time for a #NeverCruz movement to rise and take hold.
We were particularly disappointed by the endorsements of Cruz from Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham, two candidates for whom we had expressed considerable respect. Graham had been particularly stinging in criticizing both Trump and Cruz, famously describing the choice between them as a choice between being shot and being poisoned. In the end, however, Graham apparently concluded that his antipathy toward Trump trumped his disdain of Cruz:
His foreign policy is gibberish. He’s appealing to our darker side and Ted Cruz is a much more reliable Republican than Donald Trump.
We agreed wholly with the thumbnail description of Trump, but we recoiled from the description of Cruz as a “much more reliable Republican than than Donald Trump.” Equally depressing was the response that Graham drew from The Washington Post:
There are many Republicans who would agree with that assessment, so ironically, Graham’s support for Cruz is much more helpful than support from Cruz’s ideological soul mate, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). Graham, in essence, is saying to Republicans who have been very wary of Cruz (with good reason, based on his antics in the Senate) that Cruz is simply not as bad as Trump.
So far as being a “reliable” Republican is concerned, the strongest single argument against Cruz is his inability to work with other Republicans, indeed his manifest lack of interest in even attempting to do so. The intense dislike of Cruz by his colleagues in the Senate is no accident. Nor is it the result of one or two incidents, but reflects a consistent pattern of arrogance. In short, the only thing “reliable” about Cruz is that he could be counted on to be unreliable. We have been critical from time to time, as have others, of Obama’s aloofness and inability to work effectively with Congress, even including members of his own party. Cruz’s deficiencies in that regard, however, would quickly eclipse Obama’s.
In terms of issues, Graham attempted to identify Cruz’s strong points: “I do think he’s a good friend of Israel, that he would repeal and replace Obamacare, and he would pick a reliable conservative to be on the Supreme Court.” In our view, however, those “strong points” provide no justification for supporting Cruz. First, friends of Israel in the Republican Party are not hard to come by and, on this issue at least, Trump’s views appear to be more or less within the mainstream. Second, Cruz’s claim as to what he would do to replace Obamacare are no less gauzy and ill-formed than Trump’s. As for the Supreme Court, any Republican, including Trump, will nominate a conservative who, if he or she has a chance of being confirmed will have a solid record. We do find disturbing Cruz’s criticism of Chief Justice Roberts, who, whatever one thinks of his decision on Obamacare, has been a strong and constructive leader of the Court.
Issues not mentioned by Senator Graham, where we find Cruz’s position to be objectionable include, among others, the following:
Immigration. Cruz has attempted to match Trump, or even outdo him, in hostility toward illegal immigrants. Like Trump, he urges the building of a wall and mass deportations. Unlike Trump, Cruz has not estimated the cost of the wall and has not even a fanciful theory of how to pay for it. Neither Trump not Cruz have estimated the cost of mass deportation, but Cruz portrays himself as even tougher than Trump: “And in fact, look, there’s a difference. He’s advocated allowing folks to come back in and become citizens. I oppose that.”
Muslims. Cruz would patrol Muslim neighborhoods to prevent them from being radicalized. As we have previously pointed out, this attempt to create a mini-police state would be likely to produce exactly the radicalizing effect that it is supposedly designed to avoid.
Fighting ISIS. Cruz’s unique contribution to the conflict in Iraq and Syria lies in his repeated calls for “carpet bombing.” Such bombing is not only inconsistent with the norms of international law, but ignores military realities. (See, e.g. The Washington Post “Ted Cruz wanted to ‘carpet bomb’ the Islamic State. Does he understand today’s military?”
Iran. Cruz has said “I’ll rip up the Iran deal on day one.” That would be a serious mistake. We believe that there were serious flaws in the Iran deal that would have justified rejecting it. But the United States was only one of the six countries (P5+1) who negotiated with Iran and signed off on the agreement. Abrogating it unilaterally, and absent a violation by Iran, is not practical. The other members of the P5+1 would not re-impose sanctions, and sanctions imposed by the United States alone would be ineffective and serve only to alienate our diplomatic partners.
Tax Reform. Cruz’s tax plan is as unrealistic as it is radical. It has no chance of being adopted by Congress and, if it were, would almost certainly balloon the federal deficit by several billions of dollars. (See, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.)
Education. Cruz opposes Common Core and, more fundamentally, would eliminate the Department of Education. We continue to support the Common Core Curriculum which, for political purposes, has been widely attacked on the basis of misinformation. We also believe that there is a limited but important role for the federal government in raising education standards and achievement. As explained in Blog No. 29 “The Politics of K-12: Common Core, Charter Schools, Vouchers and Teachers’ Tenure,” the United States continues to lag well behind other developed countries, reflecting a national problem that affects our place in the global economy.
Abortion. In general, we disagree with Republican candidates with respect to abortion. Cruz’s positions, however, are the most extreme. In seeking to ban abortions, he would not even allow an exception for rape or incest and would not only deprive Planned Parenthood of federal funding but seek to prosecute it as a “criminal enterprise.”
In the meantime, what of John Kasich? Like other candidates, Kasich promises to unify the country and he has at least unified Trump and Cruz in one respect: they both have issued the arrogant demands that Kasich withdraw and leave the field to them. They each appear to believe that Kasich’s withdrawal would benefit them. There are arguments that can be made on either side of the question, but we do not find them interesting enough to explore. In our view, there is no reason for Kasich to withdraw and every reason for him to remain in the race.
From our perspective, we are indifferent as to whether Kasich’s continued participation favors Trump, or Cruz or neither. The choice between being shot or poisoned, as Lindsey Graham put it before his conversion, simply does not engage us. On the other hand, we believe that, as the only visible alternative to Trump and Cruz, it is vitally important that Kasich remain in the race. In saying that, we recognize that Kasich’s performance in Wisconsin, drawing only 14% of the vote and finishing a distant third, was not impressive. He must do better if he is to have any chance of being considered a credible candidate in Cleveland. That said, it appears that there are opportunities for improvement. In several coming primaries, Kasich is either ahead of or virtually tied with Cruz, although both are well behind Trump.
New York (4/19) Pennsylvania (4/26) Maryland (4/26)
Trump 53 Trump 39.9 Trump 33
Kasich 22 Cruz 26.3 Cruz 20
Cruz 18.6 Kasich 25.3 Kasich 18
And in polling against Hillary Clinton, Kasich continues to do better than either Trump or Cruz:
Clinton 49.4 Clinton 46.1 Kasich 47.3
Trump 38.6 Cruz 43 Clinton 41
[The above figures are from the averages published by RealClearPolitics.com on April 6.]
Kasich’s strength vs. Clinton has gained him surprisingly little in the Republican nominating process. Amy Davidson, writing about the Wisconsin results in The New Yorker, observed that “The establishment, such as it is, seems to have lost interest in Kasich.” On the other hand, as The Wall Street Journal observed:
Then again, if the nomination goes to an open convention, and if neither Mr. Cruz nor Mr. Trump can get a majority, perhaps the GOP delegates will want to consider a nominee who can beat Mrs. Clinton. Sounds crazy, we know, but isn’t the purpose of a political party to win elections?
Apart from the general need to do better in winning over voters and delegates, Kasich has the quite specific obstacle of Convention Rule 40(b). That rule requires that in order for a candidate’s name to be placed in nomination, he or she must be supported by a majority of delegates from at least eight states. It is obvious that Kasich will not be able to to show such support at least on the first ballot where delegates are, in general, bound by the primary results in their home states. Therefore, unless the rule is changed or modified he cannot be nominated on the first ballot or, indeed, on a later ballot until he has the requisite support.
Technically, each convention adopts its own rules and it will be up to the Rules Committee in the first instance, and ultimately all the delegates, whether to follow the precedent of Rule 40(b). Representatives of both Trump and Cruz are reportedly working hard to assure that the rule is preserved in its present form, so as to exclude Kasich. Several columns have been written analyzing or, more accurately, speculating, as to whether and how the rule might be modified or abandoned altogether. We will not attempt to add to that conversation except to recall that Justices Robert Jackson and Arthur Goldberg remarked on separate occasions that the United States Constitution is not a suicide pact. We hope that the Republicans will not let Rule 40(b) become one.