Politically, Ted Cruz made national news last night by pulling off an upset and won the Texas Republican Primary Run-Off against David Dewhurst, a party establishment favorite going into the election to replace Kay Bailey Hutchinson who is retiring after this term. With heavyweights like Sarah Palin, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint making personal appearances in the Lone Star state in favor of Cruz last week, as well as endorsements from Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Pat Toomey, Tom Coburn, and the longtime well-respected conservative thinker and former Attorney General under Reagan, Ed Meese, Cruz has the label Tea Party “insurgent” written all over him. The choice was clear for conservatives across the state: a moderate legislative negotiator (read compromiser, status quo) vs. a proven conservative fighter. More than 1.1 million voters, including myself, voted in the Republican Primary in a suppressed statewide turnout of mere 8.5%. Cruz won 56.8% of the vote, while Dewhurst managed to get 43.2% of the vote, a wider gap than the 10-point lead to Cruz predicated by Public Policy Polling over the weekend (source: Texas Secretary of State Election Results).
This election was a big prize for the Tea Party movement. It also signals the political fracturing in this country and within the Republican Party itself. The Republican Party is desperately in need of a rebranding in this November election and in the years leading up to the end of the decade. Currently, many ideological inconsistencies exist in the Party’s platform and policies that undermine the strength of the Party. Republicans of all stripes need to have a national convention and dialogue, especially with young Republicans who will inherit the Party and the country in the coming decades, about their vision for the Party’s future and hash out the differences. Americans are looking for a fiscally responsible government that is more effective and efficient, one that does not step over its constitutional boundaries, one that respect human rights and personal liberty, and one that can provide real hope and prosperity to millions of jobless Americans. The GOP can deliver that agenda, but infighting needs to give way to reality. Party paternalism needs to stop. Dogged pursuit of out-of-touch wedge issues need to desist. Real dialogue needs to happen. A younger generation of Republicans with its own set of political values and beliefs need to be incorporated into the Party agenda in order for the Party to stay relevant.
Polls tell us that young people still favor the President 56-39. The Republican Party is not on-message with the young voters, who in my belief care more about the cultural and social issues, such as marriage equality and equal pay for woman. Republican Party needs to revisit its stance on some of these issues because frankly its hostility - rhetorical or otherwise - toward gays and women is not “conservative,” but rather stubborn and tyrannical. It is no surprise that Ron Paul, a libertarian, has been a political superstar among otherwise would-be conservative young voters.
I still believe in American conservatism with its emphasis on classical liberal values on individual liberty, respect for the Constitution, peace through strength foreign posture, and fiscal responsibility as the best course for our country. However, I feel like some of the so-called conservatives have catered to a form of lifestyle conservatism that does great injustice to the conservative movement. Their policy stance and rhetoric are grossly out of touch with young voters, who feel the constant tug-of-war between fiscal conservatism and open-minded, socially liberal acceptance of all people and human rights – a tenet that should be claimed by conservatives but is not as result of the Christian Right.
Right now, Cruz will carry the banner of grassroots conservatives in a heavily favored general election to succeed Senator Hutchinson in November. A rising star in the Republican Party, Mr. Cruz with his legal backgrounds rooted in two venerable Ivy League institutions will provide the conservative intellectual gusto alongside Paul Ryan in Washington in challenging status quo politics of overspending and overregulation by the federal government. However, if Mr. Cruz becomes a cultural warrior for the Christian Right’s agenda, we need to revisit the conservative movement pioneered by Barry Goldwater in the late 50s and early 60s, search our conscience, and ask ourselves just what does it mean to be a conservative in the 21st century America?