Yesterday, while Donald Trump was misremembering when 9/11 happened in his own New York, Ted Cruz was making news – in Philadelphia. Neither Fox nor CNN caught his speech, an omission they may regret. As stock media tracked what has not changed, Cruz spoke to what is changing – with a voice that moved Wisconsin the night of the Wisconsin primary. And it resonated, according to those present. The untold story? Confidence in the data.
Look closely. In New York, Trump won fewer votes than Cruz did in Wisconsin, even if he got 89 delegates to Wisconsin’s 36. Cruz raked in 1.2 million votes in Texas, while Trump pulled only half a million in his home state. In the General, Cruz would carry Texas; Trump would be skunked in New York by the Democrats.
Comparisons matter. Cruz received 13,000 more votes in Wisconsin than Trump did in his hometown primary. Cruz won in Utah by nine points more than Trump did in his home state.
Cruz received almost 382,000 more votes in Texas than all the votes cast in New York. And where does all this leave Trump? He must still do what is nearly impossible on his record – he must win 64 percent of pledged delegates left, having won only 49 percent of the pledged to date. The climb is steep, and getting steeper.
And that is why the Cruz speech in Philadelphia, on April 19th, matters. As Trump toasted himself, Ted Cruz spoke with resonance, as if he knows something about the future – sees something others do not. He took the audience somewhere else, up a notch, to a mountain view. He spoke of an intergenerational time of “choosing” – not between politicians, but between alternative futures. Refreshingly, he offered perspective, something badly needed right now. Like a real President, Cruz offered hope and inspiration, with context and without superficiality, hyperbole or inaccuracy. He reminded us that we are on a “journey,” and that we are all Americans, not just party members.
Cruz spoke of America’s past, of what we have done and how we did it, reminding us of principles we all share – all of us. For the second time in as many weeks, he hit a high-water mark, capturing the best of who we are, recounting two centuries of achievement. He was neither didactic nor partisan. He honored John F. Kennedy’s vision and youthful inspiration, even as he credited Ronald Reagan’s courage. Mostly, he honored us – average Americans.
He reminded us of historic challenges we have locked arms to overcome, impossible missions envisioned and made real – from our Founders’ constitutional foresight to manned flight, from twice saving Europe to putting a man on the moon, from dreaming impossible dreams to daring to pull them off. Simple stuff, but compelling in a time of doubt, well worth remembering. He reminded us that Americans have common respect and uncommon resolve, our Nation’s strength. And he credited the individual, not government. “We are great, because we are good.” That is who we are.
In a season often marred by bombast and boasting, he demurred. Instead, he invited us to a perch above this messy political season, to a view over the horizon. Americans are strongest when we “rally around a set of principles, larger than issues that divide us.” We have “passionate disputes,” but with respect as “between the Founding Fathers.” At our best, we “concentrate on what we have in common, not what divides us.” To a one, we love our “families, work ethic, dreams and building them; we have charity and willingness to sacrifice for those in need.” This is who we are.
At a time, we must again see clearly who we are, decide who we will be. We must understand the moment in which we live, and “chart a new journey forward.” The path will not be charted by a politician, but by individual Americans. “We must concentrate on what we have in common,” to “take another giant leap forward for Mankind.” This step centers on freedom, as it always has. Whether we are intent on “vanquishing ISIS” or preserving “rule of law,” we must see ourselves as “One People,” and resolve to act as one. Why? Because “when Americans come together and speak with conviction, it changes the world.”
Heady stuff, and daring at a time of gamesmanship. But Cruz spoke with sincerity, and left the room hopeful. And the data may abide Cruz. This is the way we define ourselves, the kind of inspiration we seek to reaffirm who we are, at intergenerational inflection points. This is the stuff of leadership, not cocky boasting or self-adulation. The speech was another notch in his belt, forceful and inclusive, purposeful and high minded. It was far from the claptrap of petty politics.
What does it mean? Who can say for sure? One thing is clear: With or without the data, Cruz is right. We are at a “point of choosing” – between alternate futures, one of hope and promise, the other of brash battles, minutia and a new definition of ourselves that is hard to recognize. We are not happy to see ourselves as criminals, socialists or self-aggrandizing fops. We are not happy to be less than we can be, and we know the day is coming when we must choose. What we crave a future true to our past.
The Cruz speech also held a kicker. On the “journey” ahead, he prepared us to be “less talk, more action.” And affirmed that we Americans will “be who we were destined to be …,” if we only say we “will.” He said: “Here is the truth: You do not need me or any other politician … But we all need us, need ‘We the People’ …” We need each other, now more than ever. How true. Because, right again, our greatness is rooted in our goodness.
As I listened, I wondered. Who will hear this speech? Hope, humility and resolve, grounded confidence. More than meets the eye, these words would echo. After all, it was April 19th, the day in 1775 when a few inspired colonists gathered to defend their future country, the day battle was joined at Lexington and Concord more than 240 years ago, and a shot was heard ‘round the world. It was a good day for a shot of inspiration – and Cruz gave it, loud and clear, in a new and newly resonant voice.