I lived through the Reagan administration and voted for him twice. He was a true limited government conservative, as is Ted Cruz. But when it comes to personality and charisma, Cruz is no Reagan.
Ronald Reagan was known as “the great communicator“. He spoke the language of the common people. He connected with the blue-collar working class — the Reagan Democrats. Reagan was not a lawyer; he was not considered “brilliant”, but he had common sense and a common touch that reached people’s hearts and minds. He was positive and offered a vision that all could admire and support. He was often humble and self-deprecating, but people felt he was genuine in his political beliefs and, despite the economic and social problems of the 1970s, people believed his vision that America could be great again was possible. He lifted up the hearts and minds of the American people and restored their faith in our country and themselves.
Ted Cruz, on the other hand, is not a great communicator. He is a lawyer, and in his lawyerly way, he may be able to sway Supreme Court Justices or a jury about the facts of a case, but he is much less effective than Reagan in connecting with and moving the American people.
Also, while I am not superficial myself, I believe Ted’s appearance and his high-pitched somewhat nasally voice turned people off, whereas Reagan’s movie star looks and baritone voice added to his charisma. It is sad to say, but these superficial and non-verbal cues do affect voter’s opinions of candidates. As a result, Ted may never be charismatic; perhaps he will become so when he is older and more grandfatherly, but not in the next 4 or 8 years.
Ronald Reagan was also a Washington outsider. He was never a part of the federal government until he was elected president. He was governor of California, but governors can retain their outsider status, while members of the Senate in Washington, like Ted Cruz, cannot. Regardless of the fact that Ted opposed the establishment and DC insiders nearly 100% of the time, this is largely misunderstood by many voters who paint with an extremely broad brush and, thus, consider him an “insider” or part of the GOP establishment.
Reagan often came across as humble and self-deprecating, adding to his likability. Ted Cruz tries to be more personable and down-to-earth, but often fails and instead ends up alienating many people by being too clever by half. His jokes are often a little too high brow for working class voters, and his attempts to be likable are often too choreographed and sometimes downright odd. For example, his reading of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss during his 21 hour “filibuster” of the budget bill in 2013 is more perplexing than endearing to voters, imo. It is very hard to imagine Ronald Reagan ever pulling such a stunt.
Ted’s biggest faux pas during the campaign, imo, was his accusation at a debate in January that Donald Trump had New York values, leaving the door wide-open for Trump to deliver a knock-out counter-punch by evoking New Yorker’s response to the 9-11 attack. Although Ted used Donald’s own words that his New York values were different from the values in Iowa or elsewhere in the country, it didn’t matter. Ted could not rebound from Trump’s reply during the debate or afterward; he was never able to explain what he meant sufficiently to overcome Trump’s near perfect response during the debate. For a man as brilliant as Ted is reported to be, he sure didn’t succeed in outmaneuvering or out-thinking Trump during the campaign. See “Why Cruz Won’t Beat Trump” for more on this.
So what should Ted do in the future, if he can’t escape his sullied reputation and lack of charisma and charm enough to win the presidency? Well, to begin with, imo, the Senate is no place for a true limited government conservative. As I said above, even a staunchly anti-establishment conservative like Cruz will be found guilty by association in the eyes of many voters. In addition, one senator cannot move the senate enough to get conservative legislation passed, which further tarnishes his or her reputation as being ineffective.
In the current political climate in Washington, being a U.S. Senator is a no win situation for a true conservative. Ted would be better off leaving the Senate and running for governor of Texas, and then working to bring about a Convention of the States (COS), which is now our only hope of saving our republic, but I don’t expect Cruz to do that. I think he enjoys the national attention he has garnered as a Senator too much to give it up.
Ted Cruz is not the second coming of Ronald Reagan in 2016. He is not going to save us. It will be up to us, the people at the grassroots level to make a COS happen and reign in the federal government via Article 5 of the Constitution. If you really want to save your country, don’t pin your hopes on Ted Cruz or any other presidential candidate, get involved in the COS instead.