I have a confession to make: I’m a Democrat and a progressive, and I’m rooting for Ted Cruz to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2016.
It’s not because I think he will win or because I agree with anything he stands for. It’s because Cruz represents the best hope of returning sanity to American politics.
Cruz is perhaps the quintessential example of Republican politics, circa 2015. He’s uncompromising, ideologically inflexible, and doesn’t appear to be very interested in appealing to non-conservatives. His views are perhaps the most radical and extreme in a political party increasingly defined by rising levels of radicalism and extremism. He is the id of the modern conservative movement.
Like most Republicans, he desperately wants to repeal Obamacare. He thinks “alarmists’’ are flat earthers. He’s stridently pro-life. He wants to get rid of the IRS and hates immigration reform. He thinks President Obama is the most lawless president ever, which makes me want to send him a biography of Richard Nixon. His foreign policy views are loopy, immature, and scary. And if elected, he would probably make every effort to cut taxes to the bone, reduce social spending dramatically, appoint extremist judges to the nation’s courts and, when all is said and done, roll back the welfare state.
These policy positions and preferences are generally supported by Republicans, but are particularly popular among the Tea Party. This, of course, is Cruz’s problem. He is so inflexible in his public statements — and so solicitous of the far right — that he’s alienated many other members of the party and presented himself in a way that makes him appear unelectable.
Then again, “appear” might be overly generous. After all, Cruz’s chances of winning the presidency are somewhere between none and zero. A person with Cruz’s views, who in his recent announcement speech did nothing but dispense red meat for conservatives, is not going to appeal to Democrats or independents. In fact, he really doesn’t appeal to non-Tea Party Republicans either.
That means that if he were the nominee, he’d get destroyed, which is really the strongest case to be made for a Cruz presidential bid.
The simple fact of the matter is that the modern GOP has gone off the deep end. The Republican Party is an extreme, obstructionist, inflexible political party that has little interest in tackling America’s many domestic and foreign policy challenges. The GOP’s conservative wing has come to dominate the party and dictate the policy debate among Republicans to a disconcerting degree — blocking any hope of ending Washington’s crippling gridlock.
The only hope — and it’s a faint one — of returning the GOP to normalcy is by nominating the most extreme, yet still representative, member of the party and having him suffer a monumental electoral loss. Ideally, this would deflate the conservative dream that Americans are pining for a true member of their ilk, not a Republican In Name Only (RINO) like George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, etc. Ideally, it would strengthen pragmatic forces in the party who would have the electoral drubbing they need in order to make the case for seizing the GOP back from the Tea Partiers.
I’m not going to lie; it’s a long shot. Motivated reasoning is a hell of a thing. Even if conservatives get someone like Cruz on the top of the GOP ticket, some will still likely be convinced that he wasn’t ideologically rigid enough. Still, the way things are going, faint hope of a Republican reformation is pretty much the best hope we’ve got.
I might be a Democrat and a progressive, but I’m also an American. Little good will come from having one political party controlled by political extremists who are committed not only to gumming up the works of American governance but also to rolling back the social progress of the last 80 years that has made America a better, stronger, and fairer nation. I can see the slogan now: “Cruz 2016, Destroy the Republican Party To Save It.”
Michael A. Cohen is a fellow at the Century Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.