This week, a couple of prominent Republicans write about how they see things after Ted Cruz's upset win over David Dewhurst in the race for U.S. Senate. Last week, we featured a couple of Democrats on the same subject.
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The tsunami, the Hispanic tsunami, has hit the Texas political beach. Earlier than expected. With titanic impact. A sea change for Texas and our politics. And (surprise!) it's a Republican Hispanic tsunami, not a Democratic Hispanic tsunami. And the star of the show is Ted Cruz.
Cruz and his dedicated team ran a spectacular campaign, with the right balance of positive vision for the future and constructive criticism of his opponent and the establishment. And wisely, Cruz and his allies refused to go hard-core negative when his opponent attacked him ruthlessly, outrageously and unfairly. We all know, unfortunately, that negativity works in politics — but the line between fair, constructive, factual negativity and over-the-top negativity is a fairly bright one. David Dewhurst, Cruz’s opponent, crossed the line. Republicans and Tea Party voters didn't like it.
So what are the takeaways from the 2012 Republican Senate primary?
1. Republicans have a significant opportunity to reach out to Texas Hispanics, and win them over on substance. An overwhelming majority of Hispanics agree we should cut taxes, eliminate red tape and curtail government spending. Hispanics also don't want to unionize restaurants or sue physicians into an early retirement. Republicans and Hispanics can form a dynamic coalition prospectively through a joint positive vision for the future — when Texans link arms and fight in common cause, it's “not because we hate what is in front of us but because we love what is behind."
Cruz is now the de facto general of Republican outreach to Hispanics, but he has a spectacular army behind him. Hector DeLeon (co-chairman of the Associated Republicans of Texas), George P. Bush, the many Hispanic state representatives elected last cycle or in position to win this cycle, and many more. The efforts to woo (Republican) or retain (Democrat) Hispanic voters is the primary political story in Texas for the next decade to come.
2. Democrats have been subtly (and not so subtly) implying Republican bigotry toward non-Anglo Texans for many years. You can kiss that false canard goodbye. With Cruz's nomination, the seating of six Hispanics and two African-Americans in the Texas House last election cycle, and the many Hispanic victories in contested primaries this year, it is crystal clear the Republican Party in Texas is open for business to all Texans, irrespective of race, class or gender.
3. The Texas Republican establishment lost big this cycle. Republicans, especially Tea Party Republicans, are tired of the old order and career politicians. They want new people, new ideas and are unwilling to settle. In Texas, an opportunity for term limits (voluntary or involuntary) has arrived — either through a tidal wave of enthusiastic voters (1.4 million voted in the Republican primary and 1.1 million in the runoff) pushing out politicians who overstay their welcome, or through formal legislative fiat.
4. Outside of the Hispanic demographic, the Tea Party is the driving force in Texas politics. Driven almost solely by a fiscal vision of small government and reduced spending, it will exercise its powerful influence for some time to come. The Tea Party challenge is to progress beyond a solitary agenda of rage at government waste and size. Warranted suspicion and anger at government needs to be joined with a constructive vision for what you do with the limited resources state government is allowed to bring to bear for the common good. Obviously, at the federal level it's a different story. The war against profligate, destructive federal spending goes on, but unfortunately fiscal conservatives are currently losing. And the clock is ticking.
5. We now know Cruz is a substantive, talented politician who ran a skillful and surprising campaign. What we don't yet know is if he will grow into a statesman as U.S. senator, advancing the common good of all Texans and defending the public trust. There are many things worth fighting against, especially runaway federal spending. And yet, being against things is not enough. Cruz, for the sake of the great state that elected him, has to become more — a can-do, positive, visionary public servant who is not solely a fierce opponent of bad public policy, but a shaper and architect of wise policy. A statesman, not a rabble rouser. A servant leader of Texas, not yet another ideological politician who serves himself and his political constituency alone.
I for one am optimistic that Cruz can grow into such a senator. Especially partnered with Sen. John Cornyn, one of the finest conservative servants of the common good Texas has ever produced.
George Seay is CEO of Annandale Capital LLC, an investment firm, and co-chairman of Associated Republicans of Texas