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The 'John Wayne Moment' We're In

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By:William Murchison | March 25, 2015

Cinematically, as well as politically, we are sort of in a John Wayne moment: which is where Ted Cruz comes in.

Things in this town of ours ain't a-going real good right now. Everything, in fact, seems to be falling apart, save in the eyes of folk who wish America would either drop into the sea or fall in line with President Obama's preachments and prescriptions.

Wait! A sudden thunder of hooves in the distance! A shout! A shot! It's... It's ... Ted Cruz, declaring his candidacy for the U.S. presidency.

I do not want to be understood as mocking a serious candidate at an undoubtedly serious moment in national affairs. The point is: Would he be volunteering to save us if the feeling weren't so widespread that we need saving, and fast?

Cruz's emergence as a rootin'-tootin' presidential candidate—almost in the sagebrush-saga mold—indicates just how lousy things have gotten: divisions over police shootings, anger over presidential executive orders, fears over larger if less competent government, anxiety over breakdowns in schooling and family structure. The day of Cruz's announcement, The New York Times' lead story proclaimed: "Out of Yemen, U.S. Is Hobbled in Terror Fight/Advisers Are Evacuated/Militants in Region Are Seen as Major Threat to Americans."

We haven't glimpsed so much fed-upness and woe in America since the late '70s, when inflation, the energy crisis and the Iran hostage crisis came near to causing national psychological breakdown. We yearned for John Wayne, or someone, to come boiling over the hill—bugles blowing "Charge"—and sort things out once and for all. By no coincidence, perhaps, the voters hired a pal of Big John's, Ronald Reagan, who proceeded, with growing cooperation on Congress' part, to restore American prosperity and thwart the Soviet threat. Our bad national mood went away.

Now it's back—which explains, more or less, the stampede of Republicans hoping to pull off a Reagan-like rescue of America: Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, maybe John Kasich, maybe Bobby Jindal, etc., etc.

Amid this cavalry detachment, Cruz, for all his brains and vigor, will struggle for advantage. Cruz's appeal, as his Liberty University launch made clear, is to "millions of people of faith all across America," with their deep concern for "the sanctity of life" and "the sacrament of marriage." That appeal has its clear place in political discourse, what with the strong secular bias against standards of belief grounded in religion, e.g., marriage as legitimate only between a man and a woman.

It is easy to guess that evangelicals will turn out for Cruz in large numbers, but not for Cruz alone, inasmuch as other candidates, including Rick Perry, Cruz's fellow Texan, will be working the same side of the street.

Meanwhile, there are all those non-evangelical issues, such as Obamacare, which Cruz, to be sure, wants to wipe off the books, only that's not likely to happen soon. Paul, who plans to announce his own candidacy in early April, has a constituency of his own, focused on personal liberty questions and a non-interventionist foreign policy. Walker talks of how he already has cleaned out swollen Big Daddy government at the state level. Bush will tout knowledge, know-how and personal outreach to some of the same Hispanics Cruz and Rubio want to reach.

Can Cruz—my own senator—bag the Republican nomination? Given the competition, I would advise no one to wager his 401(k) on such an outcome. Is Cruz wasting our time and money, therefore? In a John Wayne moment such as this one, the only reasonable answer is no.

Whatever his political liabilities—his slim record of political achievement, his reputation as a doggoned dogmatist—Cruz brings to this John Wayne moment ideas and emphases that voters may like. He brings not least the realization that this is such a moment: fretful, anxious, hungry for different leadership.

We will want to give an ear to the sounds pouring from his bugle.


William Murchison's latest book is The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson. To find out more about William Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at




3/25/2015 03:44 PM

  Wake me when there is a legitimate chance of disenfranchising minorities and the dependent classes. Unless that becomes a reality, its futile to discuss national elections....

Harry Colin
3/25/2015 05:14 PM

  I believe Mr. Murchison has considerably more optimism than I do with regard to Mr. Cruz and the roster of GOP candidates. We know we're in an election cycle because we have now Republicans making their ritual, pious pronouncements about religious freedom, family values, the sanctity of life and the virtues of smaller government. Yet since 1968, the GOP has occupied the White House for 28 of those 47 years and what do we have to show for it ? Abortion was legalized under the GOP and has flourished since then. "Gay" rights, the explosion of pornography, unrestrained illegal immigrants... has the Party done anything to reverse or even slow these problems? To only confirm Sam Francis' description of "the Stupid Party," this immigration surge only reinforces Democratic advantage in national elections, yet the GOP does nothing. As for the size of government, Cruz and his cohorts are eager to make it even bigger with more wars, more "homeland security" measures that enrich their supporters and blind obedience to the Likud Party. Cruz' ignorant performance in front of the recent meeting of Middle Eastern Christians qualifies him to finish third in a two-man race for county dog catcher.

Harry Heller
San Francisco
3/25/2015 10:20 PM

  I confess to becoming increasingly disillusioned with Cruz, who seems a bit too immature to be President (my mother said the same thing about Obama in 2007, and ...). I don't like his somewhat new sniveling on LEGAL immigration: "no one is a stronger supporter ...". Why, Ted, why go there at all, instead of appealing to unemployed Americans across the spectrum with the "Harry Heller Message to Restore American Middle Class Prosperity: RESTORE CAPITALISM, REDUCE IMMIGRATION" ? That strategy is, in fact, the ONLY one which will give hope to the economically anxious and get us out of our national funk as Mr. Murchison describes it. True conservatives must push, both rhetorically and substantively, a pro-economic-growth agenda, and the only way an advanced economy like the US (or Japan, France, etc) can do achieve such growth is by reestablishing a capitalist political economy rooted in ultra-strong private property rights. However, without true immigration reform (reduction in absolute numbers, as well as reconfiguration of the types of immigrants admitted towards those who are well-educated, well-off, and likely to bring genuine economic benefits to the nation - note to CHRONICLES readers: the type of appeals to American ethnocultural preservation that Sam Francis, Pat Buchanan, and, in my own quiet way, I myself, were making right up to the mid-00s, and which vdare and amren continue to make, are pure political losers in today's de-Europeanized USA), most of the benefits of this higher economic growth will simply accrue to the owners of capital, as has already been happening for the past 3+ decades. Conservatism is, contra leftist allegations, NOT a rhetorical strategy whose primary purpose is to ensure the concentration of wealth in a small elite. Therefore, the key to rebuilding the great American middle class and restoring hope for the future is capitalism + immigration reduction. I believe such a policy would also be a political winner.

Clyde Wilson
Columbia, SC
3/26/2015 02:22 AM

  I predicted to Chronicles readers not long ago that the Republican presidential candidate would be the usual photogenic, clueless "businessman" from the Deep North, and that he might have a "white Hispanic" running mate. Cruz fills the latter spot perfectly and adds appeal to the the stupider "conservatives."

Leo Hylan
3/26/2015 07:39 AM

  You are right Harry Colin. You are right and intelligent and perceptive. But what is the alternative? If the bugle sounds do we march? Cruz remains an option don't you agree? What is your option?


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