Ted Cruz, Pandering, and Presidential Politics

Ted Cruz continues to claim to be the only “consistent conservative” running for President.

Though a catchy phrase, a brief glance at just the past four years shows the startling inaccuracy of that claim. While Cruz consistently claims to be a “rebel,” tying himself to fellow anti-establishment Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul, his stances are more calculated than ideological.

Now, running for President, Cruz ties himself to whatever stances that will bring him victory.

In 2013, Ted Cruz sponsored a bill calling for the immediate repeal of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates that biofuels be added to gasoline by refiners, citing opposition to government subsidies. Ending the program, wildly popular with Iowans involved in ethanol production, would be detrimental to Cruz’s hopes to win the Iowa Caucuses.

Ted Cruz now favors a “gradual phase out” by 2022. In a recent op-ed, Cruz claims he always favored a gradual end to the program. He further claims to be for “No Washington favoritism” for any particular energy producer, and in the next breath promises to kill further EPA regulations on ethanol blends. America’s Renewable Future, a special interest group backing the Renewable Fuel Standard, praised Cruz’s shift on ethanol subsidies, despite Cruz’s protests that nothing had changed.

Ted Cruz purports to be against the NSA’s mass data collection on “innocent Americans,” citing his support for the USA Freedom Act that would allegedly reign the NSA in. However, in a recent debate with Marco Rubio, Cruz claims the Freedom Act actually expands the NSA’s monitoring capabilities, saying “The old program covered 20% to 30% of phone numbers…the new program covers nearly 100%.” Cruz, the supposed staunch advocate for the Constitution and limited government, recently attacked Edward Snowden, the contractor who revealed the extent of the NSA’s data collection, calling him a “traitor.”

Cruz has also attempted to pander to former supporters of libertarian maverick Ron Paul. Though he cosponsored a bill to Audit the Federal Reserve by Ron’s son, Rand Paul, he wasn’t present for the vote. He was busy campaigning in New Hampshire instead. Perhaps more than anything else, Ron Paul was known for his opposition to the Federal Reserve. One might figure anyone claiming to be Ron Paul’s natural successor would jump at the chance to knock the Fed down a peg. 

Of course, Ted Cruz continues to insist that his stances never change. Any perceived differences are simply misunderstandings. Ted Cruz, the consummate lawyer turned politician, has the rhetoric and charisma to sway a surprising number of people to this way of thinking. These abilities come in handy with the many twists and turns Cruz has in his positions, swaying with political expediency and the pandering necessity of the moment. 

Even in his first years in the Senate, every move Cruz made was deliberately calculated to promote the Ted Cruz image. Cruz loves to portray himself as a thorn in the side of the Republican establishment, which he is. Much of the conflict, however, isn’t for anything particularly productive. Take his non-filibuster “filibuster” in 2013 against Obamacare. While not a true filibuster (his long speech being purely symbolic), he was ostensibly showing his willingness to fight for his principles.

In truth, Cruz was trying to replicate Rand Paul’s success during a true filibuster earlier that year, against the danger of drone strikes on U.S. citizens. Paul’s filibuster propelled him to the national stage, receiving the coveted “rebel” spot in the limelight. A jealous Cruz, like a bird squawking for attention, wanted the same treatment.

At CPAC that year, Rand Paul brought the same binder he used for his filibuster, filled with facts, figures, and reference materials. Ted Cruz brought his cell phone, and implored all in attendance to text a prompt to a number. Never one to miss an opportunity for shameless self-promotion, he also encouraged the audience to visit his website on jobs.

His Presidential announcement speech was a (no-doubt deliberate) callback to Ronald Reagan’s in 1979. Cruz, a gifted orator, offered up lofty rhetoric about American exceptionalism and the only path to electoral victory: getting “millions of Americans…voting our values.” Far from being a rebel, Ted Cruz doubles down on the party’s past to try to win in the present. He also doubled down on self-promotion, repeating his text scheme from two years before.
Every move Cruz makes, from the constant slight shifts on policy positions to plugging a texting scheme during important speeches, pushes towards one goal. Ted Cruz’s overwhelming goal, in everything he does, is to promote Ted Cruz and amass more power and influence. Rather, he wants to promote a certain image and idea of Ted Cruz-the idea that he is a “consistent conservative” and a “rebel.” The idea that he’s the only hope for America. The idea that he can be all things to all people. 

It’s hard to blame Ted Cruz for his blatant political pandering. It is, after all, the quickest route to the Presidency. The entire political narrative of Ted Cruz revolves around his principles and consistency. Two things wholly incompatible with blatant political pandering, constant adjustments to political stances to pander to different interest groups, and blatant self-promotion. Ted Cruz may have deep principles and convictions, but none of which we have seen on his campaign.

About Tyler Groenendal

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Tyler Groenendal is a junior studying Economics at Hillsdale College. He enjoys cats, liberty, and the music of Ritchie Blackmore.