Exit Ted Cruz… for now

May 6, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 6, 2016

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas ended his presidential campaign Tuesday night after losing the Indiana primary by 16 points to businessman Donald Trump. The outcome in the Hoosier State all but assured Trump of obtaining the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer. Ohio Gov. John Kasich — who still had fewer delegates than U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, despite the fact that the Floridian dropped out of the race in March — ended his campaign on Wednesday, only a few hours after GOP national chairman Reince Priebus acknowledged that Trump was the party’s presumptive nominee.

So here we are: The man whom many predicted would never win the nomination, and whom I predicted wouldn’t even win a single primary or caucus, has vanquished all comers from the party of elephants.

In truth, I’m sorry to see Cruz go. Tracking his campaign was like watching a suspense thriller. Would the obvious creep — and Cruz’s off-putting personality and looks were matched only by his heartless radical-right policies — be able to charm, fool, injure or kill all the characters who stood any chance of detecting and foiling his evil scheme?

Cruz, after all, isn’t just someone who was famously loathed by his freshman-year college roommate and widely reviled by his Senate colleagues and fellow Republicans. Recall that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) tepidly endorsed Cruz about three weeks after saying, in a speech at the Washington Press Club Foundation’s 72nd Congressional Dinner, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you.”

No, Cruz is far more repellent than that. He is, in fact, a man who seemed to be disliked by his own 7-year-old daughter. Should you doubt this, watch this video, or check out these pictures from the campaign trail, or read this article.

Still, part of me is going to miss Cruz. He would have made a terrible president, being far more committed to hardline conservative principles and convinced of his anointed place in God’s plans than even George W. Bush. Still, I think he would have been more effective than Trump at rallying conservative voters to his side. Conversely, he also might have been more effective than Trump at motivating liberals to pull the lever for Democrats.

Had Cruz secured the Republican nomination, chances were good that he would have led his party to a thoroughly demoralizing defeat. And had that happened, conservatives wouldn’t have had the excuse that they used to brush off their defeats in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012. Specifically, they wouldn’t have been able to claim that their party lost because they chose a compromise candidate who might appeal to moderates, as opposed to choosing the most devoutly conservative candidate possible.

Cruz was and is the living, breathing embodiment of a strain of godly social conservatism that is equally committed to the kind of tax-cutting, government-reducing policies that disproportionately benefit society’s wealthiest members. Despite his off-putting personality, Cruz’s defeat, especially a resounding one, would have been as likely to tip off conservatives to the general unpopularity of their principles among the American public as anything else.

Of course, maybe this is wishful thinking. The bulk of the conservative movement has proven incredibly resistant to acknowledging evidence that contradicts an enormous range of its dearly held beliefs, however irrational they might be. This is a movement that denies the existence of human-caused climate change and is actively attempting to ignore the altering demographics of the American electorate while fervently promoting the infallible genius of unrestrained capitalism and the ability tax cuts to send the economy into overdrive as if by magic.

At any rate, it’s time to say goodbye to my fantasy of a Republican Party following Cruz to a ballot-box fiasco of unprecedented proportions. However, as Amanda Marcotte reminds us, Cruz’s absence from the news will likely only be temporary:

Do not be surprised if there’s government shutdown dramas every few months, now that Cruz is back in the senate. Cruz’s campaign may have run out of steam, but he still retains that hunger for attention. Being away from the endless stream of cameras that comes with a presidential campaign will leave a hole in his heart, a hole we should expect he will fill by finagling every opportunity he can to get back on TV.

In other words, there will be plenty of opportunities to remember just why it was that Cruz would have been such an awful president — and why it was that he lost to a blustering reality-TV star with a bad hairpiece.

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