Guest Editorial: The lesson of Cruz’s candidacy

San Antonio Express-News
May 6
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It was always going to be a rough road for first-term Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to secure the GOP presidential nomination.

But he had a plan — to mine evangelical voters, to position himself as the most conservative candidate, to be tough on immigration and to tap into those frustrated by what he termed the “Washington cartel.”

And it worked for a time. Before his withdrawal from the race last week after yet another drubbing by Donald Trump (in the Indiana primary), he had won 11 state primaries or caucuses and was the great Texas hope for the anyone-but-Trump crowd.

But Trump, a candidate whose pronouncements would have sunk less celebritized candidates, has tapped into something greater. That would be a yearning among GOP voters for someone even more “outsider” than Cruz has billed himself to be.

And, in this, Cruz’s candidacy — grudgingly endorsed in the later stages by “establishment” candidates — points to an evolving truth for the Republican Party. And a path ahead, post-Trump. Even a guy who was a ringleader in shutting down the federal government in 2013 could not sell himself as an outsider. This points to a deeper frustration among GOP voters — with their party, its leaders and their direction.

Cruz was mistaken to have entered the presidential race. He lacked the experience — and the temperament.

As a senator, he has consistently mistaken obstruction for leadership.

He mistook advantages in a crowded field to be a preference for him.

And he has worn his colleagues’ scorn as a badge of honor rather than reading it as an inability to get anything done by compromise and collegiality, the very essence of politics if meaningful public policy is the goal.

But the promise of Trump is precisely that he will get things done. That he will defy the considerable forces arrayed against substantive change and make deals — and protect the entitlements that the party has said it wants to diminish. We doubt the ability of a President Trump to deliver given his character and policy flaws, but this is his allure.

In the early stages, Cruz refused to take the bait as did other GOP candidates and get down in the mud with Trump. But as the number of candidates winnowed, he went there and relished it way too much.

We didn’t think it was possible for a candidate to position himself to the right of pre-campaign Cruz. But Cruz managed to do that, to himself — on immigration, on wanting to learn if sand can glow in the dark and on barring Muslim refugees but allowing in Christians. He was seemingly in a race to out-outrage Trump.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has been trying to craft a workable, constructive, non-finger-pointing plan of GOP governance. This is the path ahead for the party — not constant bomb throwing.

It’s a lesson Cruz can learn.

Cruz can best serve his Texas constituents — remember them, Senator? — by returning to the Senate to do the job they elected him to do. That wasn’t running for president.