Rand Paul is without doubt my first choice for the presidency. As the most libertarian member of the United States Senate, and the son of Ron Paul, Rand is strongly deserving of our support and I wholeheartedly endorse him for President of the United States. However, should he be unsuccessful in his presidential campaign and choose to leave the race at any time in the next few months, we should keep our options open, for there is clearly another candidate in the race with strong liberty credentials.
1. Ted Cruz is one of the most fiscally conservative members of the United States Senate. He boasts a 98% lifetime score from FreedomWorks and a 96% lifetime score from the Club for Growth. He has consistently voted for spending cuts and lowering taxes, and has repeatedly stood up to the establishment’s last-minute deals that do nothing more than increase the national debt. Whilst it is fair to criticize him on the very few occasions where he has not stuck to his core free market principles, the same can be said for Rand. Ron Paul endorsed Ronald Reagan for President in 1976 and 1980. Reagan was certainly seen as a liberty-minded fiscal conservative at the time, but his record as Governor of California pales in comparison to Cruz’s exceptional voting record.
2. Ted Cruz gets it. Although he is clearly not a libertarian, he is the only candidate in this presidential race besides Rand Paul who actually understands what a libertarian is and the ideological basis of our beliefs. In fact, besides the Pauls, he is probably the only major party presidential candidate since Reagan with any level of knowledge of what libertarians truly stand for. The sheer depth of Cruz’s comprehension of liberty is unsurprising, given he toured the state of Texas with the Free Enterprise Institute, spreading the ideas of liberty icons such as Mises, Rothbard and Bastiat as a high school student. Close examination of his history indicates that there is a strong likelihood that he once was one of us. At Harvard Law School, Cruz’s professor Alan Dershowitz described him as “more of a libertarian” than a social conservative. Much of the liberty movement shares a passion for strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution, as advocated by Ron Paul. Cruz is one of America’s finest constitutional lawyers and his views on the Bill of Rights and the separation of powers line up closely with our own. Just like Rand, if elected President, Cruz would rescind unconstitutional executive orders and stand against indefinite detention of U.S. citizens.
3. Ted Cruz is an anti-war candidate. The most pressing foreign policy issue right now is the matter of the Syrian Civil War. This may sound surprising to some, but aside from Rand Paul and Donald Trump, every presidential candidate in both parties, including Bernie Sanders, supports a form of intervention in the Syrian Civil War on the side of the rebels. Some candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio go further still, supporting a no fly zone over Syria. Ted Cruz has clearly said that the U.S. has no business getting involved in a conflict to support some of the same people who committed the worst act of terror against the United States since Pearl Harbor. As shown by his similar opposition to past regime change in Egypt, Libya and Iraq, Cruz understands the principle that the overthrow of generally secular, nationalist dictators in the Middle East leads to the rise of radical Islam. Whilst Cruz agrees with Rand on launching airstrikes to support those fighting against ISIS, he also strongly opposes the deployment of U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Syria for that objective.
4. He values us and wants us on his team. The Cruz campaign is the only campaign other than Rand’s which sees the liberty movement as a key target coalition. This is best shown by the launch of Cruz’s new outreach organization “Liberty Leaders for Cruz”. Some libertarians have mocked it for being led by Bob Barr, the 2008 Libertarian Party presidential nominee, who is unpopular with many Ron Paul supporters. However, this effort indicates a significant step up in terms of libertarian outreach when compared to the lackluster approach of the other campaigns. Though both Rubio and Trump spoke at the libertarian conference FreedomFest over the summer, neither offered substantive policy concessions to libertarians, instead choosing to simply reiterate their standard stump speeches. On the other hand, Ted Cruz emphasized issues such as civil liberties that matter to libertarians while at the Republican Liberty Caucus convention, and has appeared in recent weeks to be placing a high priority on the liberty vote. During the CNBC debate (which many argue that Cruz won), he name-dropped Ron Paul, backed the gold standard and interjected to emphasize the similarities between his tax plan and Rand’s, all of which were clear overtures to the liberty movement. This is not new for Cruz – the liberty movement played an important role in electing him to the U.S. Senate and he has maintained ties to the movement through periodic appearances at events such as the Young Americans for Liberty National Convention in 2013.
5. He can win. Although it is evident that Cruz is a deeply polarizing figure and lacks much of the bi-partisan appeal of a candidate like Rand Paul, he also has far greater favorability among voters who are motivated by religious issues or immigration, which means he has a strong potential to take grassroots votes from Ben Carson and Donald Trump respectively. With a total of over $65 million raised, Cruz has demonstrated outstanding fundraising prowess with large and small donors alike, allowing him to remain competitive with establishment candidates in both parties. Recent general election polls now show him ahead of Hillary Clinton and Clinton’s numbers are only likely to get worse as more revelations come out of the Benghazi committee. As one of North America’s finest competitive debaters in college, it is certainly plausible that Cruz could emerge with a strong lead over Hillary after a few one-on-one debates with her.
6. If he’s terrible, we won’t get the blame. Though I personally don’t subscribe to this line of thought, one reasoning some libertarians use to oppose Rand Paul is that if he is elected President and turns out to be unpopular and ineffective, he could discredit libertarianism as an ideology in America. Unlike Rand, few in the media besides fringe left-wing outlets have characterized Cruz as a libertarian, and Cruz has never identified as one himself during his political career. As a consequence, if he does turn out to be a bad President, he is far more likely to do damage to the conservative brand than the libertarian one.
There is no doubt that Rand Paul is a better liberty candidate than Ted Cruz. But compared to the usual offerings libertarians receive from the Republican Party every four years, Cruz is a breath of fresh air.