A man and a moment
Ted Cruz's moment was October of 2013. At his urging, the House refused to fund Obamacare, prompting a presidential budget veto and a short government shutdown. This was his Rubicon. After ten months in office, his career in the Senate was now effectively over. He was running for president, and he would use the notoriety of the shutdown to begin building an army of true believers across the country, an army that sustains him to this day. Of all the leading Republicans in Washington, he alone was willing to stand and fight for the constitutional principle that is the centerpiece of the separation of powers: the congressional power of the purse. When a congress surrenders this to a president, it betrays centuries of political progress that began as parliament against king. This is the road to serfdom.
His timing was impeccable, even if somewhat fortuitous. He didn't pay much of a price, politically, outside the Beltway, since the country was immediately exposed to the fiasco of the Obamacare website. The shutdown was quickly forgotten. Cruz could not have foreseen this, but it came at the perfect moment. Very smart analysts like Avik Roy and James Capretta had been predicting for years that the entire Rube Goldberg structure of Obamacare just simply couldn't work. It soon became clear that they were right all along. It wasn't just bad public policy. It was a mess.
The political implications became clear immediately, causing top-flight Republican Senate candidates like Gardner, Ernst, Sullivan, and others to take the plunge. What it meant was that the entire Democratic Party had joined Barack Obama in lying, insistently and repeatedly, about the nature of this dog's breakfast. You couldn't keep your doctor. You couldn't keep your health insurance. You weren't going to see your premiums go down. Lies, all lies – premeditated, politically calculated lies. The Democrats are still paying the price for these lies, and they're not done yet.
Over time, the lies will be forgotten, but one lasting result of this entire exercise is that for a generation, the American people are not going to believe that a big new federal program is the answer for anything. The federal government is not the answer, it was clear. It's the problem.
If Ted Cruz is able to capitalize on this moment, the opportunity it presents is historic. This can be the moment when a fourth political era in our history begins. The first was the Jefferson-Jackson expansionist era, which lasted until the Civil War. The second was the Republican era of laissez-faire capitalism, which ended in 1932. The coalition Franklin D. Roosevelt formed survives in much altered form today. If Cruz wins, it's gone, and a new era begins.
For with his victory, Cruz will have earned a mandate, and it is a commission for a stark, fundamental change in our direction as a nation. If you want to know what he's got in mind, he'll tell you. It's nothing less than cutting the federal government down to size. For a taste of what could be in store for us, look to Nevada right now, where he's running ads promising that he will work night and day to transfer the 85% of Nevada that's owned by the federal government to the state and the people. This message resonates powerfully across the West. From Montana south to New Mexico, and all points west, the federal government is a huge and unwelcome landlord. This message will virtually guarantee caucus or primary victories in Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah. It will be a major boost in Colorado, Arizona, Montana, and New Mexico. It will even help in the eastern parts of Washington, Oregon, and California.
An enduring part of the Cruz legacy will be a Balanced Budget Amendment. He'll be no more able to pass it in Congress than Reagan was, and he knows it. So, like Reagan, he's turned to the states, and their power under Article V. In signing a pledge from the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force to support Article V, he said, "It is clear to me that only the states can fix this problem."
A successful Article V BBA Convention will do more than just draft and submit for ratification a BBA. It will unlock the door to Article V, with the potential, in subsequent Amendment Conventions, of even more fundamental reforms, as outlined in Mark Levin's The Liberty Amendments.
In one of his last political acts, over 20 years ago, Reagan wrote an endorsement letter to Lew Uhler, the founder of the Article V BBA movement. These were the final words: "If not us, who? If not now, when?"
The man to do it is Ted Cruz, and the time is now. The man and his moment have met. At long last, all the stars have aligned.
Fritz Pettyjohn was chair of Reagan for President, Alaska, in 1979-80; is a co-founder of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force; and blogs daily at ReaganProject.com.