An Autopsy of a Movement

By Dr. Caleb Verbois

American Flag in Distress
An Autopsy of a Movement
The Center For Vision & Values
The Center For Vision & Values

Grove City, PA -(Ammoland.com)-  With Ted Cruz having dropped out of the 2016 presidential race, there will be a string of eulogies seeking to autopsy his campaign.

At least some of those critiques may hit the mark. In particular, Cruz’s campaign strategy went awry in three ways.

First, Cruz consciously copied Obama’s micro-targeted campaign of voters. He has been repeatedly praised for a campaign that focused on tiny groups of voters in states like Iowa to learn exactly how to win their vote. But while that works in Iowa where there is time to prepare, it does not work once the primary calendar heats up. This focus on targeting winnable voters also led Cruz to worry too much about focusing on states he thought he could win. He had success, in the sense that he won most of the states he heavily focused on, but by “giving up” in other states he let Trump get too far ahead.

The most recent example—giving up on the northeast state primaries to focus on Indiana probably doomed his campaign. Cruz was ahead in Indiana but after Trump’s victories in the northeast the polls in Indiana changed drastically.

Second, Cruz copied the strategy of every other political candidate in history but Trump: give a speech in front of microphones, leave before taking questions, and avoid gaffes. Partly as a result, the media didn’t heavily cover most of his events, and rarely showed his speeches live, in stark contrast to the coverage Trump garnered.

Third, Cruz focused too much on winning the most conservative voter. It is not a terrible idea to start there, especially in a crowded primary. But Cruz campaigned as though being the most conservative candidate was a virtue, rather than campaigning on ideas that matter and arguing why his conservative solutions are the best answers.

These are three legitimate complaints about Cruz’s campaign.

But the bigger story is that Trump is basically a black swan, an unforeseeable event with extreme consequences, like the Arab Spring, or Leicester winning the English Premier League this year.

Even still, without a public immensely dissatisfied with its elected leadership, a post-Constitutional President Obama that has made some Republicans want their own version, and a lapdog media focus, Trump would never have succeeded as he has.

That at least is the version of Trump’s success that is most friendly to the conservative movement. In other words, Trump’s success is not the fault of the conservative movement, but an isolated issue related to Trump’s particular candidacy.

There’s another story, however. Lost in the string of Cruz eulogies sure to come is the bigger point—that every critique of Cruz’s campaign will apply as much or more to the rest of the Republican field. Remember, a year ago Republican operators were bragging about the deepest field of candidates in history, including as many as 17 candidates. More importantly for the conservative movement, many of them were serious political conservatives that had been successful governors, senators, and business leaders.

But that deep field turned out to be fool’s gold. Governors who spent a combined $260 million campaigning for a tiny number of votes. Senators who fantasized about someone killing Cruz on the Senate floor.

The pressing question is why? Why have 40 percent of theoretically conservative Republican primary voters rejected these candidates in favor of a charlatan, con-man, and liar who spends much of his campaign peddling conspiracy theories from the National Enquirer?

The unavoidable conclusion is that they are simply not buying what Republicans are selling.

And this is not really that surprising. Conservatives have been selling essentially the same policy promises since Reagan, even though economic and political conditions in America have drastically changed in the last 30 years. And the Republican leadership, while not particularly conservative, has happily taken the votes of conservatives and promised to act on X, Y, and Z, with precious little intention, or evidence, of actually following up.

So in response, their voters have turned to a candidate with no center, who blows wherever the wind goes, but promises to do so with conviction. Failing to find conviction in Republican leaders, Republican voters have fallen for Trump’s false promises.

The long term problem for conservatives, who are, after all, distinct from the Republican Party, is that regardless of the outcome of the 2016 election, regardless even of the continued existence of the Republican Party, they do not know how to convince voters of their ideas—or even what ideas are most important. Until they fix that, no candidate or campaign magic can fix their problems. Which is to say, Trump is not the problem. His successful candidacy is the evidence of a much deeper problem in the American Republic.

 

Dr. Caleb Verbois is an assistant professor of political science at Grove City College and an affiliated scholar at the John Jay Institute. He teaches American Politics and Political Theory and specializes in American constitutional thought.

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Maluka
Maluka
5 years ago

Continued: Do I think Trump is the next best thing since sliced bread? No but at least he is not the political D.C. establishment. If he is elected what will happen to the USA? I do not believe he would sell us to the highest bidder like clinton WILL do. He is not a muslim, communist or a traitor. Can you say the same for clinton or sanders and many of the others? We need someone who understands economics and believes in America. Name one of those lawyer types or lifetime politicians among the other candidates who has that experience.… Read more »

Maluka
Maluka
5 years ago

I have said on many occasions that as soon as a candidate says what I hold close to my heart I will support that person. I am a vet and an 11th generation AMERICAN. My ancestors came here before the keel of the Mayflower was laid. My family has sacrificed themselves in all of our wars and I have 9 relatives on the Nam wall in D.C. My comments on this election are simple. Elect a democrat and we will lose our rights granted by the constitution. Elect a member of the establishment and we will have the same “me… Read more »

Maluka
Maluka
5 years ago
Reply to  Maluka

Continued from above: Do I think Trump is the next best thing since sliced bread? No but at least he is not the political D.C. establishment. If he is elected what will happen to the USA? I do not believe he would sell us to the highest bidder like clinton WILL do. He is not a muslim, communist or a traitor. Can you say the same for clinton or sanders and many of the others? We need someone who understands economics and believes in America. Name one of those lawyer types or lifetime politicians among the other candidates who has… Read more »

Maluka
Maluka
5 years ago

I have said on many occasions that as soon as a candidate says what I hold close to my heart I will support that person. I am a vet and an 11th generation AMERICAN. My ancestors came here before the keel of the Mayflower was laid. My family has sacrificed themselves in all of our wars and I have 9 relatives on the Nam wall in D.C. My comments on this election are simple. Elect a democrat and we will lose our rights granted by the constitution. Elect a member of the establishment and we will have the same “me… Read more »

JohnC
JohnC
5 years ago

Trump is a far greater danger to our country than ISIS or communism. If elected he will insult the world with his egocentric, boastful talk. Part of his appeal to his misled supporters is that he does not care who he offends. If he were a huckster for Professional Wrestling that would be good. But for a world leader that is downright dangerous. I suspect one of his first priorities if elected is to reinstate the draft, I fear we will need it.
The republicans offered an experienced qualified candidate in Governor Kasich. Trump emerged tragically.

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
5 years ago
Reply to  JohnC

You don’t know, John C, you are just guessing at the future… a parade of imaginary horribles.

2nd Amender
2nd Amender
5 years ago
Reply to  JohnC

And that scares the hell out of you, right, John C.

Service to the country developes character, motivation, self respect, discipline and a work ethic!

Maluka
Maluka
5 years ago
Reply to  JohnC

To John C I am guessing you are in your late teens. It is obvious you do not know of what you speak. Do you know Trump? Have you read anything more about him except the BS in the media. I doubt it. You obviously have never faced a foe like ISIS or communism? Have you ever had a soldier stick an AK-47 in your face and demand your papers? Have you had your movements restricted with the barrel of a gun in your face? Have you ever had a friend shot dead for responding too slow or defying the… Read more »

Colonialgirl
Colonialgirl
5 years ago

People are PISSED because the Conservative Repubs said we NEED the House so in 2012, we gave them control of the House; Then they said, “We can’t do anything because the DIMowits control the Senate”; So in 2014 we gave them control of the Senate. WHAT HAPPENED; they ALL promptly turned around kneeled down and KISSED Obama’s butt and gave HIM everything he wanted. And you are surprised we voted for TRUMP against all those SUPPOSEDLY conservative congress people and governors? Screw me once and I might forgive you Screw me twice I may not beat you up, but DO… Read more »

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
5 years ago
Reply to  Colonialgirl

Here, here CG. A succinct recitation of recent history, and an interestingly stated conclusion.

Mike Murray
Mike Murray
5 years ago

Trump, Cruz, who cares? Mr. Brison is correct, in that they are all a bunch of self serving, big government loving liars. Also, it seems nearly impossible to find a Court nominee who will actually follow the Constitution, no matter who picks them. Don’t like Trump? Hate the Hill and Bill show? Don’t stay home, don’t knuckle under to the “lesser of two evils” crap, cast a protest vote for the libertarian… whoever it is.

2nd Amender
2nd Amender
5 years ago
Reply to  Mike Murray

That’s a losers’ attitude, if I’ve ever heard one….!!!

Clark Kent
Clark Kent
5 years ago
Reply to  Mike Murray

‘Protest vote’ = vote for HiLIARy.

Ricochet
Ricochet
5 years ago
Reply to  Clark Kent

You’re right. What we really need is to elect real conservatives at every level, especially Congress to replace the RINOs who’ve caved in to the liberals. We need to get people who will uphold the Constitution and value life. The Tea Party is a movement rather than a party, but it’s a good sounding board for a political platform. We need to build a conservative Constitution-loyal platform and find cndidates who’ll support that platform. If their voting record doesn’t mesh with the values in the platform, don’t fall for their baloney. That doesn’t mean every candidate is going to draw… Read more »

2nd Amender
2nd Amender
5 years ago

Trump will delegate authority. That, in itself, is a virtue! Time will tell who he brings on board his “ship of state” to bring his campaign promises to fruition. He is ‘the republican candidate’, unlike the current White House inhabitant who is seemingly more of a “manchurian candidate’, as far as his policies have shown. I applaud Tump for his victory, but even more for his courage to go into politics. He has lived in a glass house for all to see and hear of his accomplishments, and his fumbled attempts, at many things. This alone makes him an honest… Read more »

Tom C.
Tom C.
5 years ago
Reply to  2nd Amender

Finally, someone that has the vision to accept Trump for who he is and not try to run him down just because.
I agree with 2nd Amender Trump has walked over the hot coals and survived. His approach is brand new to what we have had to deal with. Definately a change for the better. He couldn’t get much worse than what we have had!

Robert Brison
Robert Brison
5 years ago

I think everyone is missing the point here, the only reason Trump is successful so far is that the American people are sick and tired of all political bs.Lies, lies, and more lies from both sides. Not to mention, a President that’s trying to be a King, and another one waiting her turn. People are fed up and sick of it. That’s what will carry Trump, because he’s a lot of things, but he’s not a politician.

abelhorn
abelhorn
5 years ago
Reply to  Robert Brison

Trump wins because he knows that most people
in this country are just what he said STUPID.

Infidel7.62
Infidel7.62
5 years ago

I would like to see Chump state who he would nominate to replace Scalia. That would tell us a lot about where he stands.

MBH
MBH
5 years ago

What got Cruz in trouble was his lies!!

Matt in Oklahoma
Matt in Oklahoma
5 years ago

He “suspended” his run. He didn’t completely quit. Seems as though the drama might not be over.