To My Liberal Democratic Friends —
My apologies for resorting to an Open Letter, but I worry about jeopardizing our friendship by shouting over dinner or ranting in an email. An Open Letter will make my screed less personal, but equally passionate.
The reason I'm pumping ire is that too many of you fail to understand the unique danger posed by Donald Trump. I'm tired of being told, "Ted Cruz is as bad as Trump — or even worse." Or that, "I'm rooting for Trump. He'd be easy for Hillary to beat."
I have even endured speculation that since Trump supposedly believes nothing, he would govern as a moderate. Under this fairy-tale theory, Trump is nothing more than Michael Bloomberg with a Megyn Kelly obsession.
What these misguided liberals fail to understand is that Trump is the most dangerous major candidate in the past century. The bilious billionaire might still hold this dubious crown even if Huey Long and Joe McCarthy had formally declared for president.
Yes, Cruz is 'severely conservative,' as Mitt Romney might put it. He would populate the Supreme Court with the heirs to Antonin Scalia. The freshman Texas senator meant it when he excoriated "New York values" like support for gay marriage and abortion rights. In economic matters, he makes Ronald Reagan seem like an apostle of Big Government. And Cruz's pledge to "carpet bomb" ISIS echoed Curtis LeMay's plan to bomb North Vietnam "back to the Stone Age."
In Washington, Cruz is so isolated that the Maytag Repairman has a more active social life. Shunned by fellow Republican senators over stunts like shutting down the government, Cruz is a political arsonist more interested in burning down than building up.
If triumphant in Cleveland, Cruz would become the most conservative Republican nominee since at least Calvin Coolidge. Barry Goldwater, in contrast, had a strong libertarian streak that left him liberal for his day on social issues.
By this point, my liberal friends are vigorously nodding in agreement since they can't imagine how Trump could possibly be worse. Especially since, as the world's only evangelical Presbyterian, Trump's private views on social issues are probably squishy rather than hardline conservative. But liberals peddling a false equivalence between Cruz and Trump fail to understand that the relevant test is neither ideology nor popularity in Washington. For all his brutish style, Cruz serves as something like an uncompromising rightwing counterpart to Bernie Sanders.
Remember that no one has ever been beaten up at a Ted Cruz rally. Nor has Cruz derided Mexicans as "rapists." Cruz does not go around suggesting that the Bill of Rights should be rewritten to enhance his right to sue his critics. While Cruz dissembles like any mainstream politician, the senator does not compulsively lie like Trump — a candidate who has denied making statements even after hearing his taped words.
Cruz, who has held serious policy posts in both the George W. Bush administration and in Texas, understands how the government works. He does not trumpet his ignorance like Trump, who suggested last month that his ideal Supreme Court nominee would be a legal gumshoe who would investigate Hillary Clinton's "email disaster."
For all his hawkish views, Ted Cruz knows what the nuclear triad is. He does not gush over the strong leadership of Vladimir Putin nor view Bashar Assad as a uniter not a divider. Cruz has never boasted that he gets all his foreign policy briefings from watching Sunday morning talk shows.
This is (warning: cliché ahead) a strange election year. Which is why it is foolhardy to declare that Trump, if nominated, has no chance of winning in November. With 56 percent of the voters in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll holding a negative view of Hillary Clinton, Democrats are in no position to feel overconfident.
More than six months before the election, horserace polling can mislead. Candidates like Clinton have not yet faced any attack ads. Issues that may loom large in October like Clinton's home-brew email server have barely surfaced in the Democratic debates. So it is risky to over-react to polls, like the NBC survey, that show Clinton leading Trump by a 50-to-39-percent margin.
Troubling is the fear that the former reality show host can rebrand himself for the fall campaign as the New Trump. Already we have hints that Trump is trying to modulate himself — suddenly ducking out on Sunday talk shows to avoid more incendiary ad-libs. A few more weeks of self-restraint might launch a round of fawning profiles of the statesmanlike GOP frontrunner.
The only way to eliminate any chance of President Trump is for the Republican Party to stand firm against nominating a hatemonger whose ignorance is only exceeded by his arrogance. That's why liberals rooting for Trump's nomination are akin to old-time Marxists cheering for an economic collapse because it would bring the revolution closer.
So, my friends, you don't have to subscribe to Cruz's hardline views to believe that the nation would be rescued if the lone-wolf Texas senator thrashed the bumptious real-estate promoter at the Cleveland convention.
President Ted Cruz would represent what happens in a democracy when you lose an election to someone on the ideological fringe. President Donald Trump would represent what happens when you lose an election to someone with a contempt for democracy.
That's a huge difference.