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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Cruz-Rubio alliance or a Rubio-Cruz alliance?

The Republicans need to decide which brand of conservatism they really want.

W henever I start to despair at how corrupt and screwed-up the science establishment has become, I turn to politics, and almost immediately I start to feel better. Maybe that's why so many people like politics: no matter how bad your life gets, there's always something worse happening in politics.

On the Democratic side, a recent poll showed that the overwhelming majority of voters say they think Hillary is untrustworthy. The rest are probably lying. But she also got a majority of the votes, which means some of them think being untrustworthy shouldn't disqualify you from being president. As Hillary might say: Oh, what a world.

On the Republican side, the establishment's favored candidates—Bush and Kasich—are pretty much out. So now they're desperately hoping for a Rubio-Cruz alliance. Rubio, they say, is now the only plausible alternative to Donald Trump.

They too are in dreamland. It's true that since New Hampshire, Rubio has gotten some new programming installed to fix that little infinite loop that gave him so much trouble. (Somehow, nobody knows how, someone had slipped a 10 GOTO 10 in there.) Rubio has also gotten an upgrade to a new silicone-based fluid, installed a new spring, and recharged his positronic net.

Like that robot boxer in the 1963 Twilight Zone episode called Steel, he's ready to go back into that smoke-filled arena.

But a Cruz-Rubio alliance is impossible. Trump, the master manipulator of people, will never let it happen. His number one goal is just that: to keep the competition from joining forces, and he's brilliant at it. I know people like Trump, and there's no chance they'd let their adversaries form an alliance.

Cruz has an enthusiastic base of supporters, but he's suffering because the GOP establishment hates him. He's too conservative for them, which makes the base wonder whether their party is afraid of its own values. They seem to be anxious that maybe conservatism isn't as great as they think, so why would the voters want it?

But Cruz's real problem is that he's an iconoclast. Conservatism has always been a struggle between two opposing visions: should we avoid change and stick to past ideals, or should we radically transform the world to restore those ideals? This struggle led the neocons, exemplified by Francis Fukuyama, to advocate the theory that democracies never fight each other, so turning the Middle East into a democracy would ensure peace.

That theory turned out to be as accurate as the idea that building grass runways on your poverty-stricken Pacific island will make the Americans come back and bring more candy bars, Campbell's soup and nylons. Other factors need to be in place first.

Ted Cruz's most radical idea is to eliminate the IRS. As much as everyone says they hate the IRS, many are terrified of eliminating it. Maybe they fear the IRS will not go down without a fight. Or maybe they fear the wrath of the millions who have become rich by gaming the corrupt system.

Cruz and Rubio will never join forces because their supporters are on opposite sides of that conservative divide, and they'll flow to Trump if their guy pulls out. So, how could the establishment Republicans achieve their goal of defeating Trump, assuming for the sake of argument that they really want to succeed?

There is only one way: they would have to support Ted Cruz. If Cruz represents radical conservatism, maybe it's time for some real soul-searching on the part of the establishment GOP. What kind of conservatism do they really want?

Maybe, like the Architect in The Matrix, there are levels of conservatism they are prepared to accept. Or maybe, like the rest of us, they'll have to decide which level they dislike the least.

The way things are going, the best way to beat Trump would be for NRO to come out with a special issue titled “Against Cruz.”

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