Aside from saying on Monday that he isn’t bothered one way or the other about being given a speaking slot at the GOP convention, Ted Cruz has been noticeably absent from the public eye since exiting the 2016 contest.
Regardless of any desire Cruz may have to run again in 2020, he should get involved in the 2016 contest now.
One would think that a committed constitutionalist like Cruz would be doing everything he can to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming president. But even if Cruz isn’t willing to stand side-by-side with Trump to that end, he should at least be willing to do so for his own self-interest.
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The fact is that while Cruz may worry that associating with Trump could damage his doctrinaire conservative brand in the eyes of ideological die-hards and those evangelicals hitherto resistant to Trump’s apparent charms, the alternative should Clinton win — being cast as one of those who stood by and did nothing as Clinton waltzed into the White House — could be much worse.
If Cruz’s authentic conservative brand is hurt by association with Trump, it will be hurt just as much — if not more — by association with the Jonah Goldbergs and the Bill Kristols of the world.
There’s also the basic fact of human nature that no one likes a sore loser, and being seen as one can be a significant handicap in the political world. Hillary Clinton’s belated though relatively graceful acquiescence to Obama’s nomination in 2008 likely secured her position as secretary of state, while Richard Nixon’s embittered exit from the 1962 California gubernatorial election almost cost him his entire political career.
Blaming biased media coverage in large part for his loss to Democratic Gov. Pat Brown, Nixon lashed out at reporters. “You don’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference,” he said.
Indeed, were it not for an outrageously biased anti-Nixon documentary which aired on ABC the week after the election — so biased in fact that it managed to garner Nixon national sympathy — his political career would likely have been over.
But Nixon is that rare exception that proves the political rule, and if enough of the conservative base considers even for a moment that Cruz’s refusal to stand publicly with Trump against Clinton was motivated by ill feeling toward Trump, he may lose a significant amount of credibility.
Cruz could also be of great help to Trump’s electoral efforts. If Trump loses, it will likely be largely the result of a concerted and biased media campaign, as was the case for Mitt Romney in 2012. But as he proved during the GOP primaries, Cruz is one of the most effective critics of media bias, far more so than Trump, who often appears personal and petty.
Moreover, forming a new relationship with Trump could also be strategically advantageous for Cruz. That Cruz is massively unpopular among his fellow senators on both sides of the aisle is a well known fact. “I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life,” former GOP Speaker of the House John Boehner said.
Lindsey Graham famously noted that if “you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” Indeed, to call Cruz unpopular may be an understatement. If Trump should win in November, a repaired, working relationship with the business mogul would offer Cruz a level of clout in the Senate — which for him is otherwise unattainable.
Regardless of any desire Cruz may have to run again in 2020, he should get involved in the 2016 contest now. The potential benefits — both for himself and the country — seem to far outweigh the potential disadvantages.