In 2004, I didn’t vote for John Kerry or George W. Bush because I wanted a conservative leader who stood for the Constitution, less government and individual liberty. Wanting these same things in 2008, I did not vote for John McCain or Barack Obama. Wanting these same things today, it looks like I might have the same dilemma in this year’s presidential election.
Many conservatives are willing to settle for the lesser of two evils. I’m not willing to do this, particularly when it’s not clear which candidate is less evil. Constitutionalists and progressives who hoped Obama would be somewhat better than Bush or a President McCain on foreign policy and civil liberties have been proven wrong. It was hard to imagine a president running up more debt than George W. Bush — that is, until Obama came along. Would a President Romney spend more than Obama? Did Republicans think Bush would spend more than Clinton?
Some would say I’m a purist. I’m not. I’m not looking for the perfect candidate. I don’t expect to find perfection. I’m looking for a candidate that is by-and-large on the right side of my stated priorities, not perfectly, but generally — following the Constitution, shrinking government and protecting individual liberty. The bipartisan big-government brand of Kerry-Bush-Obama-McCain fails miserably on all counts. I wouldn’t attempt to choose the greatest band of all time if my only choices were the Backstreet Boys and N’ Sync. I wouldn’t attempt to choose a girlfriend if my only choices were Roseanne Barr and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
But this doesn’t mean the greatest band necessarily has to be the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. There are degrees of greatness. There is room for argument. My girlfriend doesn’t have to be a supermodel (though I am taking any and all supermodel applications for the job). There are degrees of beauty. There are different types of it. There are other factors to consider.
Similarly, my preferred conservative candidates don’t necessarily have to be Ron Paul. U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz was an easy endorsement for me. If someone would have told me in, say, 2005 that a Republican candidate running for a U.S. Senate seat wanted to seriously cut the debt; wanted to audit the Federal Reserve; demanded congressional declarations of war; wanted to cut the “defense” budget; wanted to leave Afghanistan; opposed nation-building; opposed the NDAA’s indefinite detentions provisions; wanted to abolish the TSA; and opposed SOPA and other Internet censorship legislation — I would have asked if this candidate was able to poll above 5%. I had voted for conservative candidates like this in the past. Most were third-party candidates. A few were Republicans. None of them were more than a blip in any poll.
In Tuesday’s Texas Republican primary, U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz took 34% of the vote; Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, the establishment choice, got 45%. If a candidate fails to get 50% of the vote in a Texas Senate primary, there’s a runoff between the top two finishers. Dewhurst desperately wanted to avoid a runoff. He didn’t. In a runoff, Cruz, with his motivated supporters, could win. Dewhurst knows it. And he fears it.
I’m not used to this. I’m not used to having an actual candidate to cheer for — not simply the lesser of two evils, but a positive good — much less one that can actually win. I’m used to my candidates having zero chance. In this Senate race, candidate Glenn Addison was probably closer to my ideal conservatism than Cruz. Addison got 1% of the vote. As with similar past candidates, I salute Mr. Addison for his contribution to the debate.