I remember well the first time I met Senator Ted Cruz. It was a Tuesday morning in July 2014, and Cruz was hosting a constituent meet-and-greet coffee event on Capitol Hill. I was serving as a summer law clerk to Senator Mike Lee at the time, and I attended with my fellow Lee clerks. Only a year and a half into his first U.S. Senate term, Cruz had already emerged as a national leader of the conservative movement. I was very excited to meet him. We made small talk about law school, and he looked curiously down at my cowboy boots when I confided that I am actually originally from New York. My fellow Lee clerk joked to Cruz how he had inspired my first cowboy boot purchase, only a few weeks earlier; this is certainly a bit of a stretch, but it made Cruz laugh.
I suspected before we first met that Cruz harbored presidential ambitions, and I have indeed been a loyal supporter of his presidential campaign. I have written numerous pro-Cruz posts, both here and at RedState. I campaigned for him out in Iowa, following the bus for a day on the campaign trail and then staying in Des Moines at the original “Camp Cruz.” I was on the Illinois ballot as a Cruz delegate candidate to the Republican National Convention (John Kasich ended up winning the delegates from my congressional district), and have been involved with the Illinois statewide Cruz leadership team.
My Resurgent colleague Elliot Gaiser and I returned to the frontline in Indiana this week, and we were in the crowd in Indianapolis last night when Cruz formally withdrew from the 2016 presidential race. Though I had reasons to be suspicious, I did not actually know Cruz was planning to withdraw if he lost Indiana. As the sadness of the moment faded, I tried to focus on the positives: what an amazing performance the campaign had all cycle. Despite getting written off early, the Cruz campaign proved to be a top-notch political operation at almost every conceivable level, and left it all on the line to prevent the Party of Lincoln from succumbing to the darkness of Trumpism. For that I am immensely proud. I am already excited to donate to his 2018 U.S. Senate reelection campaign and what will likely be his 2020 run for the White House.
As we all awoke this morning, though, it is imperative that movement conservatives quickly engage in public discussion as to the best path forward. Ted Cruz is a good and decent man, but he himself is not our whole movement.
Like many other contributors here, I am avowedly #NeverTrump. I think movement conservatives can ultimately disagree as to the propriety of the #NeverTrump conclusion, though, which is why I’d like to suggest a broader term for what we happy conservative warriors might call ourselves.
This morning, my Resurgent colleague Steve Berman noted that Yom HaShoah (Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day) actually falls this year on the same day as Star Wars Day. Readers know where I stand on issues pertaining to the former, so I’d like to focus on the latter—and, specifically, on borrowing from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Here we go: we are the Resistance. Yes, the orange-hued demagogic “presumptive nominee” charlatan and his “alt-right” ilk are the First Order, and movement conservatives comprise the Resistance.
No way in hell will we do anything other than unequivocally resist the orange-hued clown’s astonishing ignorance of how our Constitution, or rule of law more broadly, operates. No way in hell will we do anything other than unequivocally resist the orange-hued clown’s blithe indifference, if outright hostility, to classical liberal—indeed, Lockean and Madisonian—ideals about limiting government and freeing markets. No way in hell will we do anything other than unequivocally resist the orange-hued clown’s pernicious effect on the coarsening of our civic discourse and national culture, which very well might take years to successfully rebuild. No way in hell will we do anything other than unequivocally resist the orange-hued clown’s singularly setting back the pro-border security/anti-amnesty cause (which I have long supported…for much, much longer than the orange-hued clown, actually) by at least a decade or two. No way in hell will we do anything other than unequivocally resist the orange-hued clown’s disastrous caricaturing of the pro-life cause. No way in hell will we do anything other than unequivocally resist the orange-hued clown’s unforgivable moral repugnance in his vow to jam war crime orders down the throats of honorable military officers. No way in hell will we do anything other than unequivocally resist the orange-hued clown’s comical stance on strict “neutral[ity]” between our staunch Israeli allies and the kleptocratic Jew-hating jihad supporters in the Palestinian Authority.
No way in hell will we go silently into that good night and let America’s recurrent national political choice be merely amongst a terrifyingly Statist, illiberal, pseudo-communist party of the Left, and a cartoonish, white nationalist, quasi-fascistic, European-style party of the Right.
We will not let Trumpism take over conservatism as the ideological standard-bearer for the American Right. We will fight it in every possible way, and at every possible turn. Whether you are officially #NeverTrump or not, we are the Resistance. Websites such as this one, such as RedState, such as Conservative Review, and, indeed, such as William F. Buckley, Jr.’s heirs at National Review itself—we must all band together in opposition to the “alt-right” sycophants. Nothing less than the future of the nation is ultimately at stake.
For national elected Republicans, this will ultimately make for a bifurcation. So be it. If you are a U.S. Senator, are you willing to stand with #NeverTrump stalwart Ben Sasse, or will you kowtow to tyranny like the lamentable Jeff Sessions? If you are a Governor, will you stand strong with Scott Walker, or will you quiver like Jan Brewer? These lines matter—both intellectually and, going forward, pragmatically.
How the Resistance ultimately goes forward mid- to long-term is, of course, the ultimate question. #NeverTrump this cycle means what it says: we will not, under any circumstances, violate our consciences and vote for Donald J. Trump. Period. He is just as morally unworthy of our votes as is Hillary “cattle futures”/”Vince Foster”/”Benghazi” Clinton. And, frankly, his downside risk is almost assuredly higher.
Let’s air out that public discussion. I am still collecting my own thoughts. If the orange-hued clown loses to Clinton in a 1964-esque landslide, is the GOP apparatus itself still salvageable? I really am not sure. As for this cycle, I suspect I will vote third-party: the Libertarian Party has some potential, I suppose, and perhaps the same is true of the Constitution Party. If none of them is suitable enough, I would probably write in Ted Cruz’s name. Broader unity and coordination on this tactic is difficult and may well be impossible—but, again, let’s have that public discussion.
As someone proudly born on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, I have always had a mild emotional attachment to the political party—the Republican Party—in whose name Lincoln himself served as a first President of the United States. But first principles must always trump partisan identity, and #NeverTrump thus it is.
As acolytes of conservative thought running from James Madison and Edmund Burke through Russell Kirk and Ronald Reagan—be we avowedly #NeverTrump or nose-holding reluctant Trump voters—we must stand strong together. We will not give up on our country. We are the Resistance.