The Conservative Plan to Win

A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America by Ted Cruz (Broadside Books, 400 pp.)

A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America by Ted Cruz (Broadside Books, 400 pp.)

As the year of Donald J. Trump segues into 2016, one presidential contender has hitched himself onto the Trump train with great success: Ted Cruz. While Trump has dominated headlines and derailed the candidacies of those who dared to attack him, such as Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, Cruz has avoided direct confrontation with Trump while assiduously courting his supporters.

It is all part of the Texas Senator’s sleeper campaign to win the presidency, which seems to be finally coming to fruition. Cruz is running in the conservative lane of the Republican primary, positioning himself as the most consistently right-wing candidate. Instead of directly attacking other candidates, Cruz hopes to pick up their supporters if and when they falter, consolidating the conservative faction. It seems to be working, as Cruz is making a serious play for supporters of Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul. Cruz has slipstreamed behind a resurgent Trump to second place nationally while taking first place in Iowa, the all-important caucus state.

It has been quite some time since movement conservatives have been able to choose the Republican presidential nominee. Divided into evangelical, Tea Party, and libertarian factions, among others, they have not gained the critical mass necessary to overcome a party establishment that quickly coalesces around a moderate frontrunner such as Mitt Romney or John McCain. Seeing an opportunity in a fractured 2016 field where the establishment seems to have difficulty deciding among Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, or John Kasich, Cruz hopes to reverse that historical tendency. His campaign book, A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America, anchors his vision and message with a blueprint for conservatives to win in 2016.

In A Time for Truth, Cruz lays out the rationale for his candidacy in great detail, detailing his journey as the son of an immigrant father. The topics covered are expansive, ranging from his time at Princeton and Harvard Law School to his experience as a policy adviser on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign. Of course, he also discusses his more well-known record of constitutional litigation as solicitor general of Texas and the fights he picked with the Republican establishment in the U.S. Senate, including the 2013 federal government shutdown.

Cruz is a highly scripted candidate, and A Time for Truth is a highly scripted campaign book.  From following the trajectory of Cruz’s campaign, it is clear that much of his speeches and direct contact with voters include a simple regurgitation of the stories in the book. For instance, Cruz tells the rather amusing story of his visit to Dartmouth as a high school student:

“My second choice would have been Dartmouth, which was an outstanding institution with an incredible campus in the rather isolated town of Hanover, New Hampshire. The students were very welcoming. On my visit there, I spent the night with some Dartmouth students, who brought me to a frat party. What followed was an evening of dice games and significant quantities of beer. Much to my parents’ displeasure, when they picked me up the next day for our trip to Brown University, I was not in an ideal frame of mind. In fact, at a meeting the next day with an admissions counselor at Brown, I had to ask her to please lower her voice because, I told her, I was hungover. That probably did not leave the best of impressions.”

I, myself, have heard Cruz tell this story almost word-for-word in person as he spoke to a few Dartmouth College Republicans before a major event. No news on whether he played pong while visiting Dartmouth.

This scripted nature can easily be explained by a few key factors. For one, Cruz is a highly disciplined candidate, avoiding the gaffes that have felled conservative politicians in the past. He also has an audiographic memory, meaning he has the ability of being able to remember any conversation verbatim. As such, it is not surprising that his content of his book matches up exceptionally well with his in-person campaigning while providing additional detail in its over 300 pages. Still, the consistency in Cruz’s messaging is remarkable. The cover of A Time for Truth is his Facebook profile picture. His campaign slogan is “courageous conservatives reigniting the promise of America,” while his four super PACs are all named some variant of “keep the promise,” referencing the book’s subtitle. The largest of the four super PACs, Keep the Promise III, even markets itself as “reigniting the promise” in social media.

As a champion collegiate debater, Cruz is a master at framing subjects in his worldview, and this tendency is clear throughout his campaign. At third Republican presidential debate on CNBC, rather than answering the biased and incompetent moderators’ question, he delivered a scathing indictment of the liberal media. In A Time for Truth, he does essentially the same thing throughout. His pitch is always the same. The Republican establishment is spineless and enables President Obama’s radical agenda, which is destroying the greatness of America. Republicans need a courageous conservative who will fight for conservative values, even when it gets tough.

Cruz intends to be that courageous conservative. In his description of every single conflict, he positions himself as the most consistent conservative on every issue from national sovereignty to the Second Amendment to Obamacare. The overarching narrative is that he can always be trusted to fight for conservative values, and the purpose of fighting so hard is to restore America’s promise of freedom and opportunity. This framing begins as soon as Cruz describes his background, using Reaganesque rhetoric:

It is difficult for many of us to fully comprehend what a beacon of hope this country offers the rest of the world. There is no other place on earth that would have welcomed so freely to its shores a man like Rafael Cruz. He was eighteen, penniless, and spoke no English. He owned three things: the suit on his back, a slide rule in his pocket, and a hundred dollars that my grandmother had sewn into his underwear.

America, quite simply, saved my father. America gave him a chance.

He champions the narrative of the American Dream lived by he and his father, underscoring why exactly he fights so hard when it would be easier to simply go along to get along in Washington. Cruz occasionally portrays himself as a pragmatist, but he is downright righteous in his quest to be elected the forty-fifth President of the United States. He harkens back to the days when belief in American exceptionalism was widespread. His passionate and unyielding belief in a deeply conservative vision for America is clear.

Cruz draws sharp contrasts between other Republican figures and what he alleges is the corruption of Washington throughout the book. For example, when discussing his primary battle against David Dewhurst, he portrays his opponent as an honorable and very nice man who will nonetheless do nothing to fight for conservative principles. He describes the Republican Senators who did not stand with him against Obamacare in a similar light. The sharpest contrast, however, is drawn as Cruz describes his spat with Karl Rove, a favorite whipping boy of conservative activists, over George H.W. Bush’s endorsement of Cruz in the 2010 Texas attorney general election before Cruz dropped out. Cruz makes some fairly explosive accusations against Rove, as he often does against Republican leadership in Congress. Part of Cruz’s framing is that the objective facts are always on his side (that is why the title is A Time for Truth), but the veracity of some of his claims is hard to verify. In the end, it is about trust.

Given Cruz’s adversarial relationship with many Republicans, including most every other Republican Senator except for Mike Lee, it is important to take his stronger assertions with a grain of salt. While it is important to at least hear out Cruz’s viewpoint, it is also important to hear the chorus of other Republicans. It is easy enough to find those willing to harp endlessly on Cruz, so A Time for Truth serves as a valuable counterpoint.

Whether one likes Cruz or vehemently dislikes him, A Time for Truth will certainly be a worthwhile read. One does not have to agree with Cruz’s admittedly controversial tactics to enjoy the book. It is well written, and the biographical aspects of it are especially interesting. Furthermore, now an especially opportune time to read it, as Cruz’s strategy to win the Republican nomination by uniting conservatives seems to be coming together. Hints of the strategy are evident in the book. For example, Cruz describes his support for Paul’s drone filibuster while claiming that Paul was insufficiently dedicated to defunding Obamacare, clearly appealing to Paul’s natural consistency of hardcore libertarians.

In these times, we have not seen a movement conservative candidate like Cruz. They are usually poorly funded and poorly disciplined—as exemplified by recent Senate candidate Greg Brennan’s assertion that the right to bear arms extends to nuclear weapons. Cruz is different. He is running as an unabashed conservative intent on reclaiming the mantle of the Reagan Revolution, but he is doing it smartly. In 2016, Cruz has a real chance of winning, and A Time for Truth clearly elucidates exactly why that is.