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.
Glenn Addison supporters, Ron Paul supporters, tea partiers and liberty lovers of every stripe should now be jumping up and down at the prospect of a candidate with Cruz’s constitutionally conservative positions potentially defeating a Republican like Dewhurst. Ron Paul is old enough to remember when this kind of stuff would’ve never happened (his movement has allowed it to happen). I suspect this has a lot to do with his endorsement of Cruz. The same is likely true of Rand Paul, who not only endorsed Cruz, but desperately needs his help in the Senate. You can bet a Senator Dewhurst will be joining the neoconservative Three Musketeers John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman on key votes. You can bet a Senator Cruz will be joining the Tea Party Caucus of Rand Paul, Jim DeMint and Mike Lee, who’ve all endorsed him.
Some of my fellow Ron Paul supporters cite the fact that former Sen. Rick Santorum endorsed Cruz as reason to be suspicious. But on the issues I like least about Santorum — big government, foreign policy and civil liberties — Cruz’s views are far closer to mine than to Santorum’s. Still, Santorum obviously saw some worth in endorsing Cruz, and Cruz has obviously benefited from being endorsed by Santorum.
In order to be successful in politics, you have to build as large a coalition as possible. This necessarily means making all sorts of alliances, some comfortable, some not. Rand Paul said in 2010 that he wanted to be judged by how he voted, not how he campaigned. Sen. Paul has proved to be every bit the conservative his father’s supporters hoped he would be. Ted Cruz is a not my perfect candidate. Few are (actually, none are) — but I think Ted Cruz will vote as a constitutional conservative more often than 99% of the Republicans I’ve seen in my lifetime.
This is not supporting the lesser of two evils. This is beating evil.
Jack Hunter (also known by his radio moniker the “Southern Avenger”) is a frequent guest on Fox Business, Michael Savage’s nationally syndicated radio program “The Savage Nation” and a frequent guest host on The Mike Church Show on Sirius XM. Hunter is the co-author of “The Tea Party Goes to Washington” by Sen. Rand Paul, assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his book “Now or Never: How to Save America from Economic Collapse” and writes the Paulitical Ticker blog for the Ron Paul 2012 Campaign.