Ted Cruz speaks at Defending the American Dream 2013

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was a featured speaker at the Defending the American Dream 2013 summit in Orlando, Florida.  He was the rock star of the convention, no doubt about it.  In the video of his appearance provided by Americans For Prosperity below, you’ll come to a moment when the crowd chants “Run, Ted, Run!” with such intensity that he is obliged to halt his speech.  I was in the room.  I couldn’t see anyone who wasn’t yelling at Cruz to run for President.

One of Cruz’ great assets is that he can win support from people who don’t necessarily agree with him on every particular.  This puts him in a very different place than his colleague Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who was heckled for his position on illegal immigration the previous day.  There was still affection for Rubio to be found at a convention held in his home state, but people are really angry with him over the Gang of Eight immigration bill, and it’s gone past the boundaries of respectful disagreement.  Perhaps this is a golden moment that will eventually end for Cruz if he pursues a presidential run, but for right now, everyone just plain likes the guy.

He’s approachable and modest, which is a great contrast against years of Presidential arrogance, and the even more detached elitism we’re likely to see from a Hillary 2016 campaign.  Cruz isn’t faking the aw-shucks blush he gets when the crowd goes wild.  His opening joke about the Obama White House viewing the popular reality-TV series “Duck Dynasty” as a horror show was a deft use of pop-culture metaphor to highlight the “disconnect between ordinary people and Washington” he went on to discuss.  Cruz connects with regular people in a way that certain other GOP candidates of the recent past could not.  Anyone who has studied the 2012 exit polls should understand the value of such a connection.

“We are facing enormous fiscal and economic challenges,” said Cruz.  “And the unhappy truth is, it has been career politicians in both parties who have gotten us in this mess.”  That’s the Tea Party creed.  The real conflict in America is between a ruling class synergy of political elites and their dependents, versus an increasingly frustrated working class, expected to pay for everything while enduring relentless assaults on their dignity.  The working class is composed of both entrepreneurs and employees, a synergy often missed by the Romney campaign, which didn’t spend enough time talking to the latter.  The people who receive paychecks should see themselves as brothers and sisters in arms with the people who sign them.

Cruz views the “grassroots uprising” across the nation with optimism, citing the 13-hour filibuster by his friend Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) as a watershed moment in which ordinary people paid close attention to what the Beltway was saying, then made themselves heard.  The defeat of gun control legislation was also an encouraging sign of citizen resistance to overwhelming government control.

So was the Obama Administration’s decision to seek congressional approval for action in Syria, a bit of news that broke only moments before Cruz spoke.  He worked it neatly into the theme of his speech, which praised the Constitutional vision of limited government and responsive public servants.  He said the most frustrating aspect of his time in the Senate was that “we have spent virtually zero time even discussing jobs and the economy.”  That’s the top priority of the American people, but somehow it keeps getting shoved down the list behind ruling-class obsessions, such as gun control and amnesty for illegal aliens, despite comical levels of lip service from everyone in Washington that jobs are their Number One concern.  Given how little “career politicians in both parties” have actually done to address that concern, Cruz thought the fourteen percent approval ratings of Congress were actually a bit high.

“My number one priority in office is restoring economic growth,” said Cruz.  “Economic growth is foundational to every other challenge we’ve got – whether it’s unemployment, whether it’s the national debt, whether it’s maintaining our military strength… With growth, we do all of that.  Without it, we can’t do any of it.”

He named two especially effective tools for economic growth that never seem to come out of the Big Government toolbox: “fundamental tax reform, and regulatory reform.”  Despite a good deal of prodding from the happy warriors of the Fair Tax movement in the audience, Cruz wasn’t quite willing to endorse their platform for a dramatic overhaul of the tax system – he seems more inclined toward a flat tax.  (Specifically, he called for a “simple, fair, flat tax,” with a big dose of body language on the “flat” part, as though he were using kung fu to beat the tax system flat with the backs of his hands.  Then he invoked the postcard tax return, a potent symbol of the Flat Tax movement.)

But Cruz’ objectives include abolishing the IRS, whose offenses against pro-life and Tea Party groups he reviewed.  Cutting the IRS down to size is a goal both Flat and Fair Taxes share.  Cruz sees it as a vital step toward reducing the centralized power of Washington, which cannot be trusted in the hands of either party.

Another thing people like about Ted Cruz is that he’s willing to aim high and fight, without harboring unrealistic notions about the magnitude of the struggle he faces.  That’s his attitude toward tax reform, which he knows will require enormous levels of enthusiastic support from American voters.  He knows it’s possible to build such support, but he doesn’t imagine it will be easy.  Likewise with his crusade to defund and repeal ObamaCare – he knows it’s an uphill legislative battle, but it’s worth fighting.  Republicans often seem to think worthy causes should be slam-dunks, forgetting what the Left has always understood: constant effort against difficult odds, year after year, slowly moves public opinion.  Passion and commitment convey righteousness to the public.

Who’s “inspired” by a party that talks itself down before political negotiations even begin, engaging only when the odds are heavily in their favor?  Aren’t Republicans tired of being indicted as co-conspirators in Big Government disasters they didn’t oppose vigorously enough, as the passage of history transforms acquiescence into consent?  Aren’t they tired of letting the Left decide where every political argument begins and ends?

Cruz related his conversations with business owners who have held back on hiring, or converted full-time jobs into part-time, or even sent jobs overseas to escape from ObamaCare.  Contrary to media and Democrat caricatures of these people as callous and greedy, Cruz found them uniformly concerned about the fate of their employees.  ObamaCare’s pressure against full-time employment was too powerful for them to ignore.  As he reminded the audience, everyone with the political influence to escape from the ObamaCare train wreck – from the IRS employees’ union, to members of Congress and their staffers – has been running away from it, as fast as they can.

“We are trying to fundamentally change the rules of Washington,” said Cruz.  “We are trying to fundamentally remind people that under the rules of our Constitution, sovereignty doesn’t reside in Washington, D.C.  It resides with We the People.”  He’s asking voters to sign up for a crusade that will change the system until it gives Americans the liberty and prosperity they deserve.  Isn’t that better, and more inspirational, than telling us to be satisfied with the negotiated abuse of a system that loathes us… and then wondering why nobody bothered to show up at the polls in November?

(Photo credit: Marge Cooke)