Postmodern Conservative

The Convention and Cruz Control

Although I appreciate the teachable moment provided by all the speculation about how a brokered convention would go, it’s pretty close to inconceivable that there would be one. If Trump has a strong plurality of the vote in the primaries and caucuses, he will be the nominee on the first ballot. Republican operatives can scheme all they want about how to stop him, but they don’t have enough legitimacy in our candidate-centered time to do so. If Rubio and Cruz have split most of the delegates between them, then it’s likely a deal will be worked out well before the convention. And that would be tough negotiating only if the split is almost exact.  Otherwise, the one who clearly did better will be the nominee. I find it highly improbable that Rubio, Cruz, and Trump will all be standing as formidable candidates on March 15. What about Christie? Well, his surge is also improbable, but if he does then there’s a ghost of a chance I’m wrong. No more than that. It’s pretty close to inconceivable, after all, that a Christie surge would leave any room for Rubio. Or maybe even Trump.

So several distinguished commentators have offered me this even-money wager: They’re convinced that either Trump will be the nominee or the convention will go more than one ballot. I’m betting that neither will happen. I think they’re suckers who have forgotten that there’s always speculation around now about a brokered convention, partly out of selective nostalgia for smoked-filled rooms and party leaders who really led the party. I admit that Trump is uncannily persistent, and if you offered me the right odds I might actually bet on him.

Right now, anyone betting on a single candidate would obviously do well to put his or her money on Cruz. And we’ve entered the season of the serious vetting of Ted. Pete below says he better get better fast, and that mean that Pete sees enough promise in him to think he can really be improved.

I completely agree with Pete that Cruz’s Club for Growth strategy on taxation, climate-change denial, and the economy in general is no ticket to victory right now. The ordinary-guy swing voter isn’t concerned at all about radical tax reform, and Cruz’s scheme really would be a tax cut for the rich and a tax increase for members of the middle class who spend most of their money on consumption. Maybe it would be the key to the growth that would benefit everyone, but we’re in a time, it seems, when the trickle-down theory has less empirical support (see Tyler Cowen and even, as Pete says, Charles Murray).

I’m also not a big fan of going with the simple denial that global warming exists. The right approach, I think, is to push a prudent anthropocentric environmentalism, one that balances concern for anthropogenetic climate change with strategies for growth and technological innovation. Here I’m all for Matt Ridley’s observation that global warning is real but manageable, and so we ought to get ready without getting hysterical. I was even impressed by Peter Thiel’s argument that we should revisit the case for nuclear energy. And I agree with Joel Kotkin that gradual weaning away from fossil fuels should be with the real interests of American workers in mind, and not driven by the Green crony capitalism of Silicon Valley.

All in all, Cruz seems to be the combination that (critical and condescending) commentators always attribute to American Evangelicalism:  Radical free-marketeering with unyielding social conservatism. That might well be an effective strategy for securing the nomination, given the need for pluralities in primaries and caucuses. But in November?

For now, I’m more open to the less economically orthodox approach of Rubio, which includes tax breaks for struggling families and so forth. Notice I haven’t endorsed Rubio or Christie or anyone else.

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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