Ben Franklin, when the time came to sign the Declaration of Independence, remarked that “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” It was the coda to an enormously rancorous debate, in which the members of the Continental Congress were by no means all agreed on how to pursue their grievances with George III and his government, but at the end of which they united on a common course of action from which there was no going back. Conservatives need to take this lesson to heart. Marco Rubio on Tuesday became the 14th candidate to drop out of the Republican presidential race, and after winning 3.39 million votes and three primaries, he was the most successful contender yet to exit the stage, with many devoted followers here at RedState and across the Republican Party, the conservative movement, and the world of blogs and Twitter. Just about all of those supporters – myself included – recognized that Donald Trump represented an existential threat to both the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Now, it is time for all of us to act accordingly. Ted Cruz is the only thing standing between Trump and a nomination that will destroy both the movement and the party and make Hillary Clinton our next President. Both supporters of Rubio and supporters of Cruz need to suck it up and make common cause behind Cruz, or we shall all hang separately.
Sadly, if understandably after a long and bitter primary and while the threat of Trump still has tensions high, far too many people are just not willing to let go of their grudges. Many Rubio fans are still bitter – bitter at being compelled to choose a weaker general election candidate, bitter at some of Cruz’s heavy-handed tactics like making a brief play for Florida without any hope of winning any delegates there, bitter about the months Cruz spent on a strategy of trying to win Trump voters by cozying up to Trump. And many Cruz fans are bitter as well – bitter at Rubio staying in the race and costing Cruz delegates in places like Missouri and Idaho, bitter that Rubio campaigned in Texas, bitter at Rubio getting better press than Cruz after Iowa, or just generally bitter at Rubio over immigration. Some Rubio fans who swore “Never Trump” seem unable to let go and recognize that Cruz is the only “Never Trump” option on the table. Some Cruz fans seem dedicated to kicking the Rubio supporters while they are down and continuing to rant against Rubio and his supporters and gripe about the Gang of Eight as if it shot their dog, rather than recognizing that they have won this fight and still need a lot of help to win the ones against Trump and later Hillary. It is especially tragic given not only the stakes but the fact that Cruz and Rubio really only disagree on a fairly small band of issues, fewer than almost any pair of presidential rivals I can remember (there were bigger policy differences even when John McCain ran against George W. Bush in 2000 and against Mitt Romney in 2008). Rubio’s supporters wanted a conservative; they can still have one, just not the one they wanted, or they can sulk and cry about the unfairness of everything. And Cruz supporters who are implicitly or explicitly telling Rubio supporters that you don’t need or want our support sound like a bunch of 3 year olds who missed their naptime.
You people all need to grow up. The stakes are too high, the threat too grave, the time too short. If Trump wins the nomination, we’ll have decades for recriminations, the kind of recriminations that kept Baby Boomer liberals busy until 1992 after they blew up their movement in 1968.
Rubio himself is coming around, telling his supporters in Minnesota that Cruz is the only conservative left in the race. He can show some leadership by taking the next step, and soon, to openly endorse Cruz and campaign for him, and Cruz can show some grace as well by welcoming that support.
For the Rubio fans, if there is any consolation that provides a chance at a little petty revenge, at least remember this: backing Ted Cruz now is not only the best revenge against Donald Trump and his sneers at “Little Marco,” it’s also the best way to sideline John Kasich, who has been nothing but a thorn in the side of anti-Trump efforts in general and Rubio in particular, even after Rubio helped Kasich win Ohio by explicitly instructing his supporters to take one for the team and vote Kasich (judging both anecdotally and from the exit polls, a fair number of Cruz supporters in Ohio did the same thing). But of course, even then, we will all need the Kasich voters on the Cruz bandwagon, too, just as Rubio needed the Jeb voters and Cruz has needed the Ben Carson voters.
I get that there are some Rubio supporters who genuinely can’t vote for Cruz, mostly over immigration, the main issue on which there was some real fire between the two. Even there, the disagreements are overstated – some Rubio voters preferred Cruz’s immigration stance but preferred Rubio for other reasons, some preferred Rubio’s position mostly out of general-election calculation rather than on principle, and some simply did not regard the issue as one of great importance. But even for those who think Cruz’s immigration stance is too harsh or too politically imprudent for the general election, remember that he still needs to defeat Trump, and even if Trump’s actual immigration policy proposals are opportunistic, implausible and insincere compared to Cruz’s, the fact is that Trump’s rhetoric and public brand are much more anti-immigrant than the son-of-an-immigrant Cruz’s.
The idea that there is no real difference between Cruz and Trump is a combination of monomania and total loss of perspective. Ted Cruz is a devoted champion of the right to life, of limited government, of the Constitution, of everything conservatives hold dear. You may not agree with him on every detail or every strategem, as I don’t, but he is on our side all the way down. And he is a man of great intellect and seriousness of purpose, however wrongly his rhetorical style may rub some of you. Trump is not one of these things.
For the Cruz fans, it’s also important to start accustoming yourself now to reality: Ted Cruz is going to have to make nice with people you don’t like very much if he is going to become the nominee and the President of the United States. His willingness to pursue a months-long détente with Trump was only the first sign of that. That doesn’t mean apologizing to the likes of Mitch McConnell, but it will mean picking a running mate and advisers and later Cabinet members who are not 100% the same as Cruz, and will mean finding ways to bring into the tent the kind of voter who thinks Mitch McConnell is the bees’ knees.
The temptation to wallow in old grievances and keep fighting each other after the bell has rung can be an overwhelming one, but I leave you with the words of Winston Churchill. Hardly anybody in the history of politics had more reason to feel vindicated after years of unfair and unwise criticism – or to blame his predicament on others – than Churchill when he came to power in 1940, even moreso because the worst voices for appeasement – Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain – had been Prime Ministers from his own party. But in his “Finest Hour” speech in June 1940, after the fall of France, Churchill warned Parliament not to dwell on “how we got in this mess” when the wolf was at their door and yet still capable of being beaten by a desperate and determined resistance:
I am not reciting these facts for the purpose of recrimination. That I judge to be utterly futile and even harmful. We cannot afford it. I recite them in order to explain why it was we did not have, as we could have had, between twelve and fourteen British divisions fighting in the line in this great battle instead of only three. Now I put all this aside. I put it on the shelf, from which the historians, when they have time, will select their documents to tell their stories. We have to think of the future and not of the past. This also applies in a small way to our own affairs at home. There are many who would hold an inquest in the House of Commons on the conduct of the Governments-and of Parliaments, for they are in it, too-during the years which led up to this catastrophe. They seek to indict those who were responsible for the guidance of our affairs. This also would be a foolish and pernicious process. There are too many in it. Let each man search his conscience and search his speeches. I frequently search mine.
Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future. Therefore, I cannot accept the drawing of any distinctions between Members of the present Government. It was formed at a moment of crisis in order to unite all the Parties and all sections of opinion. It has received the almost unanimous support of both Houses of Parliament. Its Members are going to stand together, and, subject to the authority of the House of Commons, we are going to govern the country and fight the war. It is absolutely necessary at a time like this that every Minister who tries each day to do his duty shall be respected; and their subordinates must know that their chiefs are not threatened men, men who are here today and gone tomorrow, but that their directions must be punctually and faithfully obeyed. Without this concentrated power we cannot face what lies before us.
Ted Cruz for President, without rancor or reservation or looking back. Hang together, or hang separately. Join or Die.