WASHINGTON — He still has over a month before officially adopting the title “senator,” but Texas Republican Ted Cruz is already working to make his presence felt in the nation’s capital.
Speaking without notes for almost 30 minutes, Cruz offered a gathering of conservatives his post-mortem on the GOP’s 2012 presidential defeat and a diagnosis for a path forward. He spoke Thursday night at the American Principles Project’s first annual “Red, White & Blue” gala.
According to Cruz, the real reason Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost was that Republicans did not make the arguments necessary to confront the Democrats’ narratives, specifically those blaming former President George W. Bush for the recession, and the Republican “War on Women,” which he described as “an utterly ridiculous notion.”
“We didn’t even make the argument,” Cruz said, noting that according to exit polls, 53 percent of people still blame Bush for the economic downturn. The idea that Republicans want to take away contraception, he continued, is “absolute and complete nonsense.”
Cruz also addressed Romney’s massive loss among Hispanic voters, crediting his “47 percent” mindset for contributing to the defeat.
“Do you want to know why Barack Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote?” Cruz asked.
“The tone of immigration contributed, but I think far more important was ’47 percent,’” he answered.
“It wasn’t that comment — everyone if you put a camera in their face all day long will say something poorly. I think Mitt Romney is a good man, a man of character a man who ran hard, disciplined campaign. But Republicans nationally, the story they conveyed was that the 47 percent are stuck in a static world, ‘we don’t have to worry about you,’” Cruz continued. “Well that comment makes me sad. I cannot think of an idea more antithetical to the American principles of this country’s founding.”
“We embrace, in that comment and in the narrative we made in this country, the Democratic notion that there is a fixed and static top. The rich are the rich, the poor are the poor, and all that matters is redistributing from one to the other,” Cruz said.
The senator-elect said that the conservative message should be one of dynamism and upward mobility where “anybody with nothing can achieve anything.”
“There is no doubt that Republicans have got to do a better job with Hispanics,” Cruz added, but warned that the key is not, “as the media would suggest,” simply immigration. “Nobody,” he explained, “is going to vote for you if they believe you don’t like them.”
Cruz encouraged Republicans to maintain their strong stance on border security and stopping illegal immigration, but said they must be very welcoming of legal immigration.
The Texan went on to advocate for what he termed “opportunity conservatism” — the articulation and advocacy of policies to make moving up the economic ladder and achieving the American dream more attainable.
“The simplest principle behind opportunity conservatism is the aphorism all of us know: ‘Give a man a fish it will feed him for a day, teach a man to fish it will feed him for a lifetime.’ We need to be defending the opportunity to take responsibility for your own life, taking control of your own life, because that is what has lead to extraordinary prosperity in this country,” Cruz said. “It cuts across virtually every issue.”
In that vein, Cruz advocated for entrepreneurs and small business over big business; and pushed for a focus on school choice (“the civil rights issue of the next generation”), personal Social Security accounts, a sound currency and gun rights.
Cruz also slammed the president’s policies for their effects on minorities.
“The policies of Barack Obama did even more damage in minority communities than they did across the country,” he said. “Under Obama, Hispanic unemployment climbed over 10 percent, African-American unemployment climbed over 14 percent, and yet we did an incredibly poor job articulating the message of opportunity.”
Cruz also noted that, often, conservatives are uncomfortable discussing anything class or race-related, noting that he is “something that is not supposed to exist: a Hispanic Republican.”
The Texan counseled, however, that “the policies of the left do not work.”
Throughout the speech Cruz offered up bits of conservative red meat, questioning George Stephanopoulos moderating a GOP presidential primary debate; taking jabs at Obama’s false assertion during the third debate that bayonets are obsolete; and throwing quotes from Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and the founders around as if he had just spoken with them.
Cruz closed with his family’s struggles in Cuba and coming-to-America story. His father arrived in Texas in the late 1950s with $100 sewn in his underwear, not knowing a bit of English.
“You know what I find most extraordinary about his story? How commonplace it is. Every one of us in this room has a story just like it, whether it is us, or our parents, or our great great grandparents. We are a nation where we are the children of those who made an epic journey to freedom. That is the legacy of this country.”