Greg Sargent's thoughtftul analysis is some of the best there is, judging by how little I want to tear my hair out and scream after I read his writing. In my opinion, he's the best hire the Washington Post has made in years, and I love how succinctly he gets to the point: Namely, is Ted Cruz really all that different from other Republicans?
But how different is Cruz from other Republicans on the issues themselves? How much of an outlier is Cruz in today’s GOP? Those are not rhetorical questions. A Cruz run will be a good thing, because it will bring clarity to them.
Consider this partial list:On Obamacare, Cruz distinguished himself, as it were, from other Republicans by proving willing to shut down the government to fight it. But his differences with them over the ACA were mainly tactical. All of the GOP candidates support repealing Obamacare. On his new campaign website, Cruz ludicrously lists the repeal of Obamacare as the primary thing we need to do to restore economic opportunity. But Jeb Bush, supposedly the most moderate of the major candidates, shares the basic analysis that dependence on big government — as exemplified by the ACA in particular — is the biggest cause of inequality.
Cruz’s alternative to the ACA, should the Supreme Court gut tax credits for millions, would not restore those subsidies. Congressional Republicans have made nice noises about contingency plans, but there’s no sign they can reach consensus around anything that would retain coverage in some form for those who stand to lose it. Scott Walker has not said whether the subsidies should be restored; he’s merely claimed that it will be on Congress to fix the problem. Jeb Bush has, to my knowledge, not taken a position on this, either; Walker and Bush may have to clarify soon enough, and it’s hard to see them advocating for their restoration.
On immigration, Cruz was perhaps the most vocal in calling for Total War against Obama’s executive actions shielding millions from deportation. But House Republicans have repeatedly voted to roll back those protections — for the DREAMers included. It’s true that Jeb Bush supports legalization, and even Scott Walker has said he can accept it under certain circumstances; meanwhile, Marco Rubio supported the Senate bill. So there are differences here. But Bush, Walker, and Rubio all say that the border must be secured before legalization — which is basically tantamount to opposing comprehensive reform — so it remains unclear how deep these differences will really prove in practice.
On limited government, Cruz is campaigning for an end to ethanol subsidies and the Export-Import Bank, positioning himself as the real small government opponent of “crony capitalism.” Walker and Bush will be challenged to join him. On climate change, Cruz is a firm “no” on whether human activity is a leading cause; but Bush, Walker, and Rubio have not taken a clear position on that, so they are not in the “yes” camp.
On gay marriage, there is the potential for real differentiation. Cruz has signaled that he will demand that Republicans keep up the fight for traditional marriage until the end of time. Jeb Bush, by contrast, hassuggested that we must “respect” court decisions legalizing marriage equality. If the Supreme Court finds a Constitutional right to gay marriage later this spring, Cruz may keep up the crusade in the form of supporting a Constitutional marriage amendment, effectively challenging Bush to oppose it. More broadly, as Ed Kilgore notes, Cruz’s choice of Liberty University for his announcement speech shows he is positioning himself as the candidate of the Christian right.
It’s good that Cruz is running. We’ll hopefully find out soon enough how much of a conservative outlier Cruz really is in today’s Republican Party.