In 2004, I didn't vote for either John Kerry or George W. Bush because I wanted a conservative leader who stood for the Constitution, less government, and individual liberty. In 2008, I hadn't changed my mind, so I didn't vote for either John McCain or Barack Obama. Today, it looks like I'll have the same dilemma when it comes to this year's presidential election.
Many conservatives are willing to settle for the lesser of two evils, but I'm not, particularly when it's not exactly clear which candidate is less evil. Think about it like this: I wouldn't attempt to decide who was the greatest band of all time if my only choices were the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. But this doesn't mean the greatest band necessarily has to be the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. There are degrees of greatness. There is room for argument.
I'm not looking for the perfect candidate. I don't expect to find perfection. I'm looking for a candidate that is by and large on the right side of my priorities, not perfectly but generally. The bipartisan big-government brand of Kerry, Bush, Obama, and McCain fails miserably on all counts. Similarly, my preferred conservative candidates don't necessarily have to be Barry Goldwater clones. Take Ted Cruz for instance.
Cruz, a U.S. Senate candidate in Texas, was an easy endorsement for me. If someone would have told me, let's say around 2005, that a Republican candidate running for a U.S. Senate seat wanted to seriously cut the debt, audit the Federal Reserve, demand congressional declarations of war, slash the defense budget, leave Afghanistan, end nation building, and abolish the TSA — and opposed the NDAA's indefinite detentions provisions, SOPA, and other internet censorship legislation — I would have told you that candidate wouldn't receive more than 5 percent of the vote. However, I have voted for conservative candidates like this in the past. Most were third-party candidates, but a few were Republicans. None of them registered more than a blip on Election Day.
In last week's Texas Republican Primary, Cruz took 34 percent of the vote, while establishment candidate Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst received 45 percent. In Texas, if a candidate fails to get 50 percent of the vote, there is a runoff between first and second place. Dewhurst desperately wanted to avoid a runoff. He didn't. Why? In a runoff, Cruz could win. Dewhurst knows this, and he fears it.
I'm not used to being asked to choose between a good candidate instead of the lesser of two evils. I'm not used to having an actual candidate to cheer for — much less one that can actually win. I'm used to my candidates having no chance on Election Day. In this Senate race, staunch libertarian candidate Glenn Addison was probably closer to my ideal conservatism than Cruz. Addison got 1 percent of the vote. As with past similar candidates, I salute Mr. Addison for his contribution to the debate.
Today, Addison, Tea Partiers, and liberty lovers of every stripe should now be jumping up and down at the prospect of a candidate with Cruz's constitutionally conservative positions potentially defeating a Republican like Dewhurst. You can bet if elected Dewhurst will be joining the neoconservative Three Musketeers John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman on key votes, but you can rest assured that Cruz will be joining the Tea Party Caucus to vote against them.
Some libertarian purists cite Rick Santorum's endorsement of Cruz as a cause to be suspicious. But on the issues I like least about Santorum — big government, foreign policy, and civil liberties — Cruz is way closer to what I believe than Santorum. Still, Santorum obviously saw some worth in endorsing Cruz, and Cruz has obviously benefitted from being endorsed by Santorum.
Politics is a game in which you have to build a coalition as large as possible in order to win. This means making all sorts of alliances — some comfortable, some not. Ted Cruz is not my perfect candidate. Few are. But by most measures, Ted Cruz will vote as a constitutional conservative more often than most of the Republicans I've seen in my lifetime.
This is not supporting the lesser of two evils. This is beating evil.
Jack Hunter assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his latest book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse. He is also the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul's The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz on 1250 WTMA