The other night as my wife Kelsey and I were getting ready for bed, we were talking about the 2016 presidential race and discussing how things would shape up for the first-in-the-nation caucus state – our home state – of Iowa. We had both heard that Ted Cruz was set to announce his candidacy at midnight, and were keeping a finger on the pulse of the reaction within our liberty-heavy political circles.
My wife’s phone buzzed, and then I heard her groan. Another of our friends had asked her who we would be supporting for president in the state where politicos never sleep. Both of us knew that we were leaning toward supporting Sen. Ted Cruz, but both of us also knew that we didn’t want to have “the talk” with another of our Randian friends at 11 o’clock on a Sunday night. I had to chuckle as she tried to think of ways to defer the familiar question one more time. Despite the fact that no candidates had yet announced, the Iowa scene had been buzzing with presidential hopefuls and their staff for months already, and battle lines had been getting drawn since before the polls closed last November. No candidate had been more active than Sen. Rand Paul, whose candidacy banks heavily on the vibrant and growing Liberty Movement. Senator Paul has a natural base of support in Iowa, thanks to the prior presidential runs of his father, Rep. Ron Paul – and it’s a base that we have personally helped grow.
Let’s rewind to the summer of 2011. GOP candidates were gearing up for the Iowa Straw Poll, I was a homebuilder who had neither time nor patience enough for politics, despite growing up steeped in the founding principles and the Constitution. I heard about an event in Des Moines with Rep. Ron Paul, and decided to go check it out. I had watched Ron online and knew his message clicked with my constitutional worldview, but hadn’t ever really invested in his campaign or organization. That day I got to meet him, ask him questions about how he would get the federal regulatory burden off the back of small businesses, and hear him lay out his vision of liberty. Immediately, a brushfire was lit in my mind, and I knew I had found something worth fighting for politically. I set to work volunteering and evangelizing for Ron and brought a slew of people with me to the straw poll, helping push Dr. Paul to a close 2nd place finish in that contest.
A few weeks passed, and I heard nothing from the campaign. Due to staff shake-ups, my contacts had been shuffled out of state, and after some digging I managed to find a new guy who had just recently taken over my area for the campaign. That guy was Adil Khan, now Executive Director of Liberty Iowa and a close friend. I volunteered for hundreds of hours leading up to the caucuses, becoming a volunteer district director in the Des Moines area. When I lost my job in November, I took the entire month of December to focus on volunteering for Ron, suffering real personal and financial hardship in order to help carry him over the finish line. The night of the caucuses, I donned the only dress clothes I owned, practiced my speech ten times in front of a camera, and went to my local caucus, where I was responsible for the only precinct win for Ron Paul in a wealthy suburban area I often referred to as “Romney Central”.
Ron came in a strong third place, and over the next few days, the campaign began to disassemble and head to other states. As I showed up to help pack phones and move boxes, a campaign official pulled me aside and offered me a job with the campaign. I was surprised but readily agreed. It seemed that our work in Iowa was not done yet. Over the next few months, we organized the liberty movement across the state to show up throughout the Iowa convention process and accomplish the twin goals of electing delegates to the Republican National Convention that would support Ron Paul for president, and overthrowing the establishment-dominated Iowa GOP to install leadership friendly to the conservatarian grassroots. The Paul campaign began to wind down in the middle of the convention process, and it became apparent that Iowa needed a new vehicle to harness the power and energy of the Liberty Movement, and turn it into political clout. About this time, Adil and another Iowa staffer, Morgan Pearson, came up with the idea for a new state organization that would accomplish this goal. We all talked about it, and I signed on enthusiastically. We spent hours planning and strategizing, and ended up launching Liberty Iowa on April 15th, 2012. I was dubbed Outreach Director, and worked hard to expand Liberty Iowa to new audiences through press and communications, direct outreach, and building coalitions with Tea Party and Evangelical conservative networks around the state. Part of my emphasis during this time was growing and maturing the movement, moving away from a single identity surrounding the person of Ron Paul, and toward an issue-based identity that would help us reach out to disillusioned Americans who had grown tired of the false choice offered by the two party system.
It was in the middle of this ramp-up that I was approached about running for a seat on the Republican State Central Committee (SCC) in my state. I had never considered it, and since I was still looking for work as the campaign wrapped up, I didn’t think I was the best candidate for the spot. I politely declined, leaving open the contingency that if they could find no one else, I would reconsider running. To make a long story short, they didn’t find anyone else. I agreed to run for the seat, and was elected to the SCC, serving the next two years alongside embattled RPI Chairman AJ Spiker – whose principled stands for conservative ideals put him at odds with the powerful Iowa political establishment. During our tenure I worked with Chairman Spiker, RPI co-chair David Fischer, and Finance Chair Drew Ivers – all icons in the Iowa Liberty Movement – as well as other liberty-friendly members of the SCC to support the platform and grow the party with the message of liberty. Numerous times I was smeared in the establishment blogs and radio shows for my affiliation to the “Paulistas”, but found ways to fight back, and helped others find those ways as well. During this time, Adil and I also worked with some folks across our northern border to launch sister organization Liberty Minnesota, which I’m proud to say is thriving alongside Liberty Iowa and Liberty North Dakota to this day.
Of course, living in Iowa, one doesn’t go a day after an election without thinking of the next one. No sooner had Mitt Romney gotten off the phone with President Obama, than the 2016 whispering began. In my circles, of course, the whispers centered around Sen. Rand Paul. Though many of us were still smarting from his endorsement of Mitt over his father, we were also excited for the possibility of a Rand Paul run at the presidency.
And then came the year of the filibuster.
In March of 2013, Rand Paul’s filibuster of President Obama’s appointment for CIA chief had the liberty movement – nay, the broader conservative GOP – on their feet and cheering, and tweeting #StandWithRand all over the internet. I watched most of the filibuster and was impressed, not only by Rand Paul, but by the two outspoken allies on the Senate floor during his speech; two gentlemen I was only marginally familiar with. One was Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, and the other was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The only thing I knew about Cruz at this point was that some of my friends from the Ron Paul campaign were very excited about him and had helped him win his longshot Senate race alongside Ron Paul, Rand Paul, The RLC, LPAC, and other organizations within the alphabet soup of American political culture.
Though at the time my attention was much more focused on Rand, I was impressed with Cruz’s loyalty and conviction, as well as his superb intellectual and linguistic command. The “whacko bird” triumvirate kept passing the ball around until the filibuster came to an end, with the Obama administration finally conceding that it would indeed be unconstitutional for them to kill a noncombatant American on US soil. Only later would I learn that that concession had already been extracted from none other than Attorney General Eric Holder himself, hours before the filibuster began – by Cruz. I kept an eye on Ted in the weeks and months that followed, and my ears perked up when I heard his name come up later in 2013, as the storm clouds were gathering for the fight over Obamacare funding. When Cruz promised another filibuster in opposition to Obamacare, I popped the popcorn, brought a blanket to the couch, and settled in for a long night. Cruz’s epic 21-hour speech on the Senate floor resonated with me, as well as with virtually all of my still-awake liberty friends, who were busy lighting up cyberspace with the globally-trending hashtag #makeDClisten. Most of us, at that point, were waiting to see a re-enactment of the earlier filibuster, and expected Rand to suit up and take the handoff from Cruz and Lee to force Reid, or at least the Republican leadership, back to the table. But as the hours dragged on, it became apparent that Rand wasn’t going to be a significant presence in this fight. It appeared that, having stood with Rand, Ted Cruz was now willing also to stand without him. By the time I finally clicked off the TV and dragged myself to bed, one thought lingered in my mind: Wow. This Cruz guy is for real.
That thought was only reinforced over the next couple weeks, when details of the collusion between then-Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid started to emerge, and Cruz became a one-man wrecking ball in Washington. The government shutdown and the closure of the national monuments in DC by the Obama administration was the final straw for me, and I decided to get engaged in the fight. On a weekend that I will never forget, a handful of brave Iowans – including a beautiful liberty activist who would later become my wife – accompanied me to Washington DC to take part in the Free DC Project, where we stormed the barricades of the Lincoln Memorial and experienced true liberty in a moment that I can only describe as life-changing.
From that time forward, the courage of Ted Cruz became increasingly evident as he faced off, time and time again, against the leadership of both parties on behalf of the American people. His record in the Senate grew more impressive, as he stood against Obama’s push to war in Syria, battled the IRS, pushed Audit the Fed forward, and carved out a name for himself as a defender of internet freedom by opposing Net Neutrality. Best of all, he showcased a responsiveness to the American people that became evident to me from the first time I saw him here in Iowa.
Often accused of being a hard-headed grandstander for his contentious style in the Senate, Cruz’s real-life persona simply could not be further from it. During my time as an Iowa GOP official, we invited Ted to speak at our Reagan Dinner shortly after the shutdown. Having lived in Iowa my entire adult life, I was familiar with being around high-profile national politicians, and was familiar with the fanfare and press crush that followed them as well. After the Dinner, I was tasked with making sure that Sen. Cruz could escape the crowd, and escorting him to a small antechamber in which the press awaited him. Both were much more difficult tasks than I imagined. Ted gave personal attention to each and every person who pressed forward to talk to him, making dignitaries and state officials wait until the grandmotherly lady before him had finished patting his hand and telling him how thankful she was for his stand in Washington. I kept reminding his staff that the press was now waiting for him, but Ted didn’t want to go. I was looking at a man who thrived on the encouragement of the grassroots. This is where he gathered the courage to stand against Reid, McConnell, and the rest. Right here among a crowd of average, everyday Americans: hearing their stories, and sharing his own. When the crowd thinned and we finally managed to extricate Sen. Cruz, we walked to the back of the main event hall and toward the media room. As I led the way, I heard the Senator’s voice pipe up behind me. I turned to realize that we had lost him again. As we tried to rush him along to where all the lights and cameras were waiting, he was stopping to personally thank the busboys, servers, and event staff who were busy cleaning the tables as the crowd headed outside. As I watched him shake their hands and thank them for their work, a bible verse from my youth shot through my mind, “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” This wasn’t what I had come to expect from suited national figures, and it earned a kind of respect from me that no policy initiative or fiery speech ever could.
As Cruz began to test the waters for a presidential run here in Iowa, I got to sit across from him in several informal roundtables – including one with my traditionally-skeptical libertarian posse. Most candidates for the highest office in the land run a tight schedule, and if you’re lucky enough to get a few minutes with one, they do most of the talking. Ted came to listen, and said as much at the outset of the meeting. Even more surprising was the fact that, facing a skeptical crowd outside his core constituency, Cruz challenged us all to drop the “softball questions” and get to the point. What followed was two hours of honest and productive discourse on Iran, marijuana laws, the military-industrial complex, executive overreach, and the CFR. There were areas of agreement and areas of disagreement, but all of us came away with a greater respect for the courage and realism of Ted Cruz. Agree or disagree, you knew where he stood – a quality reminiscent of the principled Dr. Ron Paul. Ron wasn’t interested in winning favor from party leadership, in bumping his poll numbers, or in mixing his message to appeal to all sides of an issue. He understood, as Ted does, that both parties are to blame for the mess we find ourselves in, and that the biggest disconnect in American politics today is not between Democrats and Republicans, but between career politicians in both parties, and the American people.
As Kelsey and I weighed the candidates, this genuine fearlessness and conviction played a big part in our decision to support Ted Cruz for president. Is he as ideologically libertarian as we are? Maybe, maybe not. I am the sort of far-right fringe libertarian who has a moral problem with traditionally-accepted government functions like property taxes, building codes, and drug prohibition. I’m offended by the very existence of the Federal Reserve, and I have no use for a foreign policy that excuses perpetual wartime spending on the backs of my children. As we looked at the candidates likely to emerge in the Republican field, only two seemed to have an understanding of the principles of liberty, and while neither has chosen to discuss those principles in the way that Ron Paul did, they have both used their strengths to advance the message, and that’s something I can respect. But since their records are “very, very similar”, the main distinction has become one of style and priority – not of policy.
We believe that Ted Cruz can reunite the conservative and libertarian base of the GOP, and can reignite the passion of the Reagan revolution – the only real presidential victory that the Right has had in my lifetime. Ted’s willingness to break from the Washington power-brokers and take his appeals to We, the American People, has inspired a grassroots movement that we haven’t seen since, well, Ron Paul 2012. Those who want to see constitutional liberty have an honest hearing in the American public again, should be ecstatic about Cruz’s candidacy – whether they intend to support him or not. What could brighten a weeknight more than watching Rand Paul and Ted Cruz take turns hammering Jeb Bush on the debate stage?
Sadly, not everyone within the Liberty Movement views the complimentary messages of Rand and Ted as a combined positive. Since the announcement that Kelsey and I would be joining Cruz’s team in Iowa, the pressure from many of our libertarian friends has been intense. We’ve been called traitors, frauds, and of course, neocons. But others have come alongside us, and have expressed their thanks for stepping forward in support of Cruz – it has given them the courage to join as well, and more are adding their names every day. Together, Cruz libertarians are becoming the first few drops of what is sure to be a steady downpour of constitutionalists working together with evangelicals and tea party conservatives to make DC listen this election cycle.
Because that’s what this whole thing is about. It’s not about personalities, it’s not about who looks good on camera or who the media deems most electable. It’s not about identity politics or tribal warfare between clans of libertarian facebook snipers. It’s about spreading the message of liberty, lighting brushfires of freedom, and restoring a mindset of independence to Americans who have had their spirits broken by a corrupt and overbearing federal government. And liberty, as one great man often reminded us, brings people together.
Ted is the one candidate in the race who has shown himself willing to stand for the things we believe in, and who has refused to play the Washington political game in order to score points and win favor and donations. He is unquestionably the candidate who is most feared and hated by the Left, and the one who inspires genuine hope within the demoralized conservative base of the GOP – that overlooked constituency without which a Republican victory is impossible.
I’m not into hero worship, so I don’t mind saying that there are a couple points on which Ted and I disagree, and should we ever find ourselves stuck in the same TSA line at the airport, I would not hesitate to try to win him over on those points. But for my money, there is no one I trust more to forge a lasting alliance within the conservative base, to fearlessly and honestly champion the principles of liberty on the campaign trail, and to destroy the One Ring of executive power while executing his constitutional duties faithfully and shrinking the federal government back within the limits envisioned by the founders. The Ron Paul revolution has gained a hearing from the American people, but for a revolution to succeed, the status quo must be challenged. Cruz has been the disruptive app we need, and no one in American politics today has been willing to throw down against the status quo of both parties the way he has.
I’m a libertarian, and I’m supporting Ted Cruz for president, and here’s why:
I’m supporting him because I believe that the NSA has no business collecting my phone data.
I’m supporting him because I believe that America needs to return to a common-sense foreign policy in which we are trusted by our allies and feared by our enemies, and do not engage in senseless undeclared and unconstitutional wars and nation-building halfway around the world.
I’m supporting him because he championed and co-sponsored Audit the Fed, making it a central point in his plan for the new GOP Senate majority.
I’m supporting him because he opposes the Patriot Act and opposed the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA, and authored an amendment to it requiring a DoD audit of bases, to identify waste and prioritize base expenditures in an effort to “reduce our overseas footprint”.
I’m supporting him because I believe that the internet should be free and open, and out from under the jurisdiction of a corrupt and inefficient federal government.
I’m supporting him because I believe that my family’s health care choices should be between us and our doctor.
I’m supporting him because no one has fought harder to stop the debt ceiling hikes that continue to jeopardize our future.
I’m supporting him because I oppose the abuses of the TSA.
I’m supporting him because he’s the courageous conservatarian voice that we need, and his courage has the power to inspire a transformational change in American grassroots politics.
I’m supporting him because it’s time that libertarianism rose up and reclaimed its position within the three-legged stool of American conservatism.
I’m supporting him because it’s time for America to have a president who honors the constitution, and one humble enough to willingly limit his own authority and use his office to return the primacy of power to our representatives in Congress.
I’m a libertarian, and I’m supporting Ted Cruz for president. I hope you will join me, and add your name to the list of those willing to fight alongside Ted to make DC listen. But most of all, I hope that you will continue to see this presidential cycle as a means to an end that we’re all fighting for – restoring individual liberty and reigniting the miracle of America.