September 23, 2016, marked the end of Ted Cruz’s future in presidential politics. After endorsing Donald Trump for president, the Texas Senator has angered what was left of his conservative base after already alienating former supporters that had previously switched their support to Trump’s candidacy just two months ago, after Cruz had refused to endorse the Republican Nominee at the GOP convention. In a campaign where nearly every move was carefully calculated, on September 23rd he calculated wrong.
Most people that know me know that I don’t just dislike Ted Cruz, I despise Ted Cruz. I spent this election cycle warning anyone who would listen that he was not to be #TrusTed, burning many bridges in the process. But how did I get here? I wasn’t always adamantly opposed to Ted Cruz. In fact, when I first heard him speak at LPAC in 2013, I was eager to hear more. Ted Cruz was a fresh face in the liberty movement and both Rand and Ron Paul had helped him win his first senate race in Texas. I decided I could potentially support him in the future after further vetting.
Upon arriving home and doing further research, I discovered that Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi was an executive at Goldman Sachs. He and Heidi met while serving as advisors in the Bush administration. In the book “Thank You, President Bush: Reflections on the War on Terror, Defense of the Family, and Revival of the Economy”, Ted and Heidi both wrote essays praising President Bush and policies like NAFTA, TPP, and No Child Left Behind. Additionally, in Cruz’s history, he once served as John Boehner’s attorney, and also recommended John Roberts to the United States Supreme Court. Ted had a documented history of being vague at best on illegal immigration, while at worst urging President Bush, as his advisor, to embrace amnesty. These are hardly staunch libertarian positions. His background appeared to have been groomed for a future in politics, seemingly eager to obtain national fame. I had decided that if he truly had a libertarian conversion from his establishment roots, then more time was needed to establish a track record in the United States Senate before I could ever support him.
In 2008 and 2012 Ron Paul built a movement consisting of Libertarians and liberty-minded republicans with his presidential campaigns. Ron Paul finished in a close third in the Iowa Caucus and his supporters gained control of the GOP apparatus in several states. It was clear that the establishment was threatened, prompting Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to give his “what will people think”, and “we’ll lose our first in the nation status if we vote for Ron Paul” fear speeches. It was clear that by 2013 the movement was popular and gaining strength. Similar to the co-opting of the Tea Party movement by establishment Republicans like Marco Rubio and Nikki Hailey, the freshman Senator from Texas was poised to co-opt the popularity of the liberty movement for his personal gain.
After winning the Senate seat in 2012 with the help of Rand Paul, Ted returned the favor by running against him in this cycle’s presidential primary. While most people were drawn to Ron Paul because of decades of consistency, Rand seemed to think that he needed to soften the message to broaden his appeal to moderates and the establishment. This created an opening for Ted Cruz to divide the support amongst liberty-minded voters, whether purposely to damage the movement or out of blind ambition and ego is uncertain. Many liberty-minded voters decided to chase the shiny new toy with no track record and continued to back him as he floundered on positions important to the liberty movement like the NSA, TSA, and foreign intervention. As a result, the movement has been damaged, perhaps irreparably.
What comes next for the liberty movement? What is certain is that there is no ideologically pure libertarian in this race. Some libertarians are backing Johnson/Weld, both former GOP governors from moderate to liberal states. Others like Wayne Allyn Root and Thomas Massie are backing Donald Trump to stop a Hillary Clinton presidency and to hope for incremental gains. Trump has systematically destroyed and embarrassed the Bush/Romney establishment political apparatus this election. While initially embracing Ted Cruz at the tail of the primary, the Bush/Romney establishment has now split their support between Johnson and Clinton. The tea party was co-opted by the establishment and weakened in 2010 and has never fully recovered. The liberty movement was co-opted by the establishment and weakened in 2016, but the Romney/Bush establishment has also been left wounded in the wake of Trump. Only time will tell if the liberty movement can make a rebound.