Healing the Republican Party's Dangerous Schisms of Faith

Iowa's in the books, and Cruz emerged victorious.

Being a pretty avid observer of this crazy kaleidoscopic coverage of the 2016 primary that is fragmenting (reinventing?) the Republican Party, I found the results pretty interesting. 

Most notable is that Cruz won pretty handily in spite of his stumping against ethanol subsidies, a ludicrous federally sponsored imposition that uniquely benefits Iowa's farming industry while Americans suffer lower gas mileage, higher food prices, and the swifter deterioration of their vehicles.

Suffice it to say, if nothing else has up to this point (though plenty should have), this should signify that Cruz is a candidate more principled than opportunistic.

And it should be noted that Iowans deserve some credit here.  Hard decisions must be made to correct fundamentally flawed government programs that are bleeding taxpayers, from the municipal level all the way to the federal.  The choice to make such a decision, knowing that your immediate circumstances might be impacted in a negative way, is an honorable thing to do.  And Iowans came out to do it in record numbers.  If small-government conservatives want to free taxpayers from the debt drivers that are the touchstones of the progressivist agenda, others will have to follow Iowa's lead.

Clearly, not everyone is happy about the Cruz victory, and they don't share my optimism about what it may signify – i.e., a roused electorate ready to reclaim its liberty from a government that has reached well beyond its constitutional tether.  But that's all reasonable enough.  It's the primary season, and the electorate passionately defending their preferred candidates is healthy, and expected.  All that matters is that when it comes down to supporting whoever wins what looks to be a three-man race among Cruz, Trump, and Rubio, conservatives will stand up and ride the big-government grifters out of Washington on a rail.

But there's something, I fear, that threatens that outcome.  It's not just the fractured appearance of the conservative base that the media seem to accentuate.  It's a fissure that potentially runs much deeper.

And it's not new, by any stretch of the imagination.  It has to do with the schism in the conservative base over just how much, if at all, religion should be expressed by a given candidate.  To illustrate, I give you two fanatics – one a die-hard Trump supporter, the other a die-hard Trump opponent.

First up, I give you "Cindy from North Carolina," a caller to the Rush Limbaugh program on Tuesday, February 2's program.  She identifies herself as a devoted follower and fan of Rush.  After having met Reagan thirty-one years ago, she became a Republican and never looked back. 

Today, however, she disagreed with her beloved host.  What she disagreed with, it seems, is Rush's candor, which appeared to be pretty critical of Donald Trump's decisions in the Iowa primary that led to his defeat.

What were the grounds for Cindy to disagree with Rush?  That Ted Cruz is a "creepy" Christian zealot.  She doesn't need a politician who "beats a Jesus fish" or "carries a cross on his back."  No, sir, it's just The Donald for this gal.  And she said on-air, with a zealot's fervor, "I will never vote for Cruz."  Which is to say, if the choice in November is between Hillary and Cruz, we can expect Cindy and her likeminded cohorts to sit this one out.

Now, let's take another fanatic, this time a Cruz supporter.  Wildly popular blogger Matt Walsh, who has moved on from witty social commentary on Facebook to sermonizing at TheBlaze, writes in his article, "Dear Christians: If You Vote For A Godless Man, You Are Asking for Tyranny":

If a man has no moral center, if he has ambition but no faith, if he does not demonstrate humility or integrity, I will never vote for him for president.  I don't care who he is, what he says, or what positions he holds.  None of that will matter when we are living under his tyranny.


You deserve it because you chose it, just as the souls in Hell deserve Hell because they chose it.  If you go to the ballot box and say "I am going to do my part to put this self-absorbed pagan in charge of my nation" you are directly consenting to the inevitable result.  You are embracing it.  You are asking for it.

Though Matt Walsh and I both support Ted Cruz as our preferred Republican nominee, and I agree with his desire for a nominee who espouses Christian values, what he expresses here is equally threatening to our country's future.

"I will never vote for him."  Walsh, like many of the staunchly religious conservatives I've spoken to, is suggesting that if it comes down to Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump, he'll sit this one out, believing his soul to be absolved, even if his doing so leads to Bernie Sanders's election as president. 

Both examples represent the two edges of Damocles's blade that hovers above us.  It is the same fanaticism that kept conservative voters at home in 2012, granting the tyrant in the White House four more years to trample the Constitution.  It is the utter blindness to recognize that of two evils, one may be the lesser.  It is the naiveté to believe that by not voting for the lesser evil, you are doing nothing to empower the greater evil. 

Whether a conservative trusts Donald Trump or dislikes Cruz's Christian proclamations is far less important than the utter destruction of American virtues like limited government and individual liberty promised by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  It is foolishness to assert that because you can't fully trust the person who is espousing some of the things that you fervently believe, you would rather empower the person you trust beyond doubt will enact all of those things that you adamantly oppose.

What good comes of staunch conservatives staying at home as Hillary or Sanders is elected?  Will the prospect of their presidencies portend a better outcome for Christians or for conservative American ideas like individual liberty and limited government?  Will fewer babies be aborted under Clinton or Sanders, or more?  Will either Clinton or Sanders seek to protect Second Amendment rights, or challenge them further?  Will either choose to rein in government spending, or will they do more to bleed taxpayers in social engineering schemes?  Will either choose to secure the borders, or will they nullify them?  Will the threat of Islamic fundamentalism be addressed, or will it continue to be ignored?

All Americans know the answer to these questions.  On which side of the aisle you sit should determine how your vote should be expressed, even if you don't find the candidate completely to your satisfaction.

Here is the danger.  If Cruz does win the primary outright, there are some Trump supporters who will be lost, due to Trump's appeal to some conservatives, independents, and even Democrats, who may not vote for Cruz, believing him to be too vocally Christian or socially conservative, as Cindy the caller does.

If Trump wins the Republican nod, Republicans will have what they've long sought, though it will have been achieved in a manner that the GOP think-tanks could never have predicted.  Trump will have a genuine chance to win voters from moderates and Democrats' bulwark demographics.  Some polls even show that 20% of Democrats may defect to vote for Trump.  However, whatever boon that may provide Trump could be nullified by hardline conservatives' refusal to vote for him, for reasons such as expressed by Matt Walsh.

Rubio, interestingly, seems to have struck a balance in this arena as the token "establishment candidate" despite his Tea Party pedigree and may likewise have appeal to the moderate vote.  But he could be stymied by hardline supporters of both Cruz and Trump, who value border security and immigration law enforcement as the most prominent issue in the campaign.  They may refuse to vote for him due to his more secular heresy, believing him to be an establishment Judas for his role in the Gang of Eight's 2013 efforts to institute amnesty.

What we need to remember above all, despite how clichéd this sounds, is that any of these candidates who may win the Republican ticket is far superior to the two serious candidates currently vying for the Democrat nomination.  Perhaps more important than anything else, we all need to remember that there will be a time when we must come together and vote for Cruz, Trump, or Rubio – if not to stand for our own preferred brand of conservatism alone, then to stand for our brand of conservatism's best shot at defeating the elements that threaten to destroy everything in which we believe.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.