Postmodern Conservative

Politics & Policy

Trump and Cruz (Evil vs. Crazy or What?)

So I’m sure I agree with most of National Review’s case against Trump. He’s not a conservative, and he’s an unprincipled opportunist. The NR writers had to do what ladies and gentlemen do.

Still, you could say that, if anything, they helped Trump, just as all the establishment senators dissing Cruz help Cruz. In the opinion of Donald and Ted, all we’ve learned in both cases is what losers think. You don’t consult Bob Dole about how to avoid losing presidential elections big. And against NR, Trump responds: Sure, I’m not a conservative, I’m about deploying all means necessary to make America great again. And he also said something mean about NR, asserting that its influence and circulation had declined.

Now, the case in the other direction is that NR is really about telling various establishment Republican elitists not to reconcile themselves to Trump. Those elitists wrong when they say he’s not that bad, that he can be contained by a strong Republican Congress, and that maybe he’s more electable than Cruz.

I think all Cruz’s talk about the establishment now preferring Trump to him is very exaggerated and, of course, very clever.

Anyone choosing Trump as the lesser of two evils surely forgot how presidential our parties are now; the convention and the campaign would be shaped in Trump’s image, whatever that might be.

Cruz,  to whom I can’t warm up as a possible president, is a principled conservative across the board. So the Republican party would keep and better define its shape under his leadership. That might not be so good for winning an election in a center-right country, but losing wouldn’t come at the price of one’s soul. 

Sometimes I really admire Cruz’s defense of principles, as in his stands against torture and ethanol. 

But when Cruz says that what’s wrong with Trump is that he will make deals with the Republican establishment and even Democrats, I’m almost with Trump. There needs to be a much larger safe space in our country for deliberation and compromise.  

I want to say that all the energy in the campaign is with Cruz now. He’s the second choice of a plurality of Republicans even in New Hampshire, and Trump, who has plurality of firsts, has virtually no seconds. And Cruz’s campaign seems so well run and all that; everyone in the know thinks he’s done what it takes to win in Iowa.

As soon as I say that, I notice that the CNN poll in Iowa now has Trump up 11. So what do I know? Nobody knows what’s going to happen in Iowa, but there’s no denying it’s going to have a big effect in both parties.

Here (of course) is the dumbest kind of establishment thinking: Let’s be for Trump now to stop Cruz (who is the greater threat). Then we can stop Cruz down the road. One illusion is piled upon another.

Let me conclude by asking: We now know who NR is against, but who are the editors and so forth for? By this time in 2008, they were for Romney. 

Who am I for, you might ask? I’m still in the someone-besides-Trump-and-Cruz camp. Yes, that’s a really lame and immature answer. Sue me.

Peter Augustine LawlerPeter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor of Government at Berry College. He is executive editor of the acclaimed scholarly quarterly Perspectives on Political Science and served on President George ...

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