Opinion Columns & Blogs

Courageous conservatism? Cruz’s talk rings hollow

Ted Cruz launched his presidential campaign on Monday by appealing to the country’s “courageous conservatives.” Fine, you might think, even as you wonder why so few politicians, liberal or conservative, stand up for timidity. Down with such cynicism. Courageous leaders – an idea worth taking seriously.

What would courageous conservatism actually require? And what, if anything, does it have to do with Cruz?

In elections, appealing to the party’s base doesn’t need courage. To challenge the base, you have to be brave. A courageous conservative would be willing to stand up to the ideologues and zealots in the Republican Party and confront truths that they will not. That may be too much to ask of a presidential candidate – but when one of them claims the mantle of courage, he asks to be judged by that standard.

A courageous conservative would dare to tell the Republican Party that the U.S. economy needs the 11 million immigrants who are here illegally, and many more besides; that they aren’t going to be deported, and that it would tank the economy if they were; and that it is long past time for Republicans to put forward a comprehensive plan to fix the immigration system. Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, has the background to make this argument, as other conservatives have done. Apparently he lacks the guts.

A courageous conservative wouldn’t be afraid to tell Republican voters that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that human activity is contributing to climate change, which is creating serious economic risks, and that ignoring this danger isn’t “conservative.” Many Republicans are beginning to face this reality, but no thanks to Cruz. ...

He has opposed with distinction – indeed, to a fault – but the courage to lead is a very different quality. ...