Donald Trump Needs Message of Opportunity Conservatism

Close friends will tell you that from early on during this campaign cycle my biggest problem with Ted Cruz was that I believed that his style — his presentation — couldn’t win a national election. It’s as if during law school he took a bad acting class. His voice, mannerisms, and cadence were almost always off-putting to me.

I know from conversations with other Christian conservatives that I was not alone in my reaction. And if you look at the election results, many Christian conservatives around the country also had issues with Ted, and voted instead for Donald Trump.

Now I realize that some of my fellow Christian conservatives believe that Donald Trump is Lucifer in the flesh, and that anyone supporting The Donald is in danger of hell fire.

Here’s my short response to that: Nothing Trump has said or done in his life, or during his presidential campaign, comes anywhere near to the political and moral failure of Christian conservative leaders either in politics or in the ministry during my adult life. Their abject failure to effectively fight the information war is the reason our country is in such bad shape politically and morally. If all my wonderful allies had spent as much time examining their own political and moral failures as they have Trump’s shortcomings, we’d be on the path to nominating a Jim DeMint or a Tom Coburn type leader. I’ve outlined my longer response here, here, here, here and here.

I don’t expect many of the hell fire preachers or “never Trump” commentators to spend any time reading my articles or seeking to learn what they don’t know. I’m sure they’re working on their next “Trump’s nomination is God’s judgment” or “conservatism is dead” themed article.

When the Illinois primary came along, I admitted that Ted Cruz was closer to me ideologically than the other remaining candidates. But I voted for Donald Trump because I think he’s the guy who can win states that Mitt Romney didn’t. Cruz was going to be a difficult or impossible sell.

The irony of the campaign is that Ted Cruz knows how to make America great again — his policies are the road map. Donald Trump, however, is the guy who can actually win the general election and get the job done. Christians and conservatives who don’t consider Trump evil will have a huge role to play, as they can help Trump see that the Republican Platform actually contains many of the principles that can guide needed reforms.

Right after Ted Cruz took office in the U.S. Senate in 2013, he penned an excellent op ed titled “GOP needs message of opportunity conservatism.” I was reminded of it by John Hart over at In his post, Hart wrote that Cruz had “wandered from his ‘opportunity conservatism’ message during his Senate service.” I don’t know that Cruz had, since I’ve had such a difficult time listening to him give speeches.

You can’t win the argument if no one is listening to you, and not enough people wanted to listen to Ted Cruz.

Below are excerpts from the Cruz op ed in the January 2013, Washington Post, which also appeared in John Hart’s article.

Republicans should conceptualize and articulate every domestic policy with a single-minded focus on easing the ascent up the economic ladder.

We should assess policy with a Rawlsian lens, asking how it affects those least well-off among us. We should champion the 47 percent.

Opportunity conservatism is a powerful frame to explain conservative policies that work. It covers the gamut of issues. Republicans shouldn’t just assail excessive financial and environmental regulations; we should explain how those regulations kill jobs and restrict Americans’ ability to buy their first home.

Don’t just say no to new taxes — fundamentally reform the tax code so that every American can file his taxes on a postcard. Eliminate the corporate welfare and complexity that enrich only accountants and lawyers.

Don’t just criticize union bosses; explain how closed shops confiscate wages and make it harder for low-skilled workers to get jobs.

Don’t talk generically about education; advocate school choice to empower parents and expand opportunity for children struggling to get ahead.

Don’t just dwell on the long-term solvency of Social Security; promote personal accounts to allow low-income Americans to accumulate wealth and pass it on to future generations.

Republicans ought to view, and explain, every policy through the lens of economic mobility. Conservative policies help those struggling to climb the economic ladder, and liberal policies hurt them. If Republicans want to win, we need to champion opportunity.

Cruz’s message outlines how Trump can make America great again. The challenge during these next seven months is to get the right message into the candidate people are listening to — Donald Trump.

You can read Ted Cruz’s entire article at the Washington Post.