Last week at CPAC, with his cocksure arrogance on full display, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) mocked former Republican presidential nominees Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney as candidates that do not stand on principle. The implication being that those men lost because they were not conservative enough.
No one who followed those presidential races, or paid even cursory attention to the exit polling, can reasonably conclude that these candidates lost because they did not subscribe to Cruz's radical brand of so-called "conservatism." On the contrary, each of these candidate's campaigns were damaged by their proximity to right-wing extremism.
Romney catered to GOP's Tea Party wing throughout the Republican primaries and could never tack back to the center, McCain inexplicably veered right during the general election with Sarah Palin as his running mate, and in Dole's 1996 run he was dogged by unfair comparisons to Newt Gingrich.
The bigger problem with Senator Cruz's remarks is not his self-serving misrepresentation of those presidential races, it is Cruz peddling himself and his unique brand of radicalism as actually conservative. Ted Cruz is not a conservative. He is an anti-government libertarian who agitates for drastic change.
Genuine conservatism promotes cautious and prudent change, respect for tradition, stewardship, humility, responsibility and fact-based decision making. It is concerned with both individual and societal well-being. With regard to government, conservatism favors a government that is lean, efficient and effective -- not impotent.
Conservatives from Edmund Burke to Ronald Reagan recognized that an effective government is essential to maintaining a civil society and providing an adequate check on individual behavior. Reagan noted that concerns such as air and water pollution, transportation policy and civil rights "must, of course, be handled on the national level."
Cruz is selling something entirely different. He sees government -- even one that is of, by and for the people -- primarily as an agent of oppression. He is a devotee of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism, which holds that selfishness is a virtue and individual happiness is mankind's only moral purpose. Rand despised President Reagan and everything he stood for.
And despite wrapping himself in constitutional rhetoric, Cruz misrepresents the views of our nation's founding fathers and shows little regard for the system of government they established. He uses revolutionary language to sow discontent and recklessly strives to delegitimize democratically arrived at decisions.
That Cruz chose to deride former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole as not standing on principle is also telling. Dole has dedicated his entire life to his country and the system of government established by our founders. From his heroic military service in World War II to his many years in Congress, Bob Dole's body of work reflects a commitment to the principles that have made our nation great.
As both a senator and a presidential candidate Dole's positions on issues were conservative. He has always been pro-life, supported a balanced budget amendment, played a key role in enacting the Reagan tax cuts, pushed for welfare reform, opposed the Clinton health care overhaul and promoted traditional family values.
Much of Dole's service involved making our democracy and the founders' system of divided government work. Dole's leadership fostered a positive bi-partisan working relationship that enabled Congress to actually respond to the problems facing our nation. Passage of the Clean Air Act of 1990, which addressed acid rain, is one example where Dole's leadership and his relationship with then Majority Leader George Mitchell produced results.
Contrast that with the dysfunction we have Congress today--and the role Cruz has played in that dysfunction.
Bob Dole is a patriot, a principled statesman, and a genuine conservative.
Ted Cruz is neither.