Dear Sen. Cruz,
Congratulations are in order. You managed to defeat perhaps the most formidable opponent in the 2018 election cycle — one infused with oodles of out-of-state cash, who carpeted the state with yard signs and basked in the adoration of an often sycophantic national media.
Still you, the “most unlikable man in the Senate,” beat him in a free, fair electoral contest. Truly a feat.
That says something, although not what I suspect you think it does, about Texans and about you. Because while Democrats (and some Republicans disillusioned with the direction of their party) no doubt cast their votes for “Beto” O’Rourke because of who he is (or purports to be), many of those who checked their ballots for “Ted Cruz” did so in spite of who you are.
True, likability isn’t everything; Beto proved that. Where you stand on the issues matters, and the majority of Texans, even a shrinking one, still stand with you. They desire limited government. They believe in first freedoms, like the right to life and free exercise. They want less federal regulation of their land and businesses. They want an immigration system that’s fair and a border that’s secure.
Those are the policy positions you ran on and the ones you promised to advance in Washington, D.C.
But your first term in the Senate wasn’t marked by legislative victories or even earnest attempts at reasonable compromise in the name of getting things done. Instead, it was notable for your theatrical filibuster (which accomplished what, exactly?) and for your laudable, albeit failed, campaign for the presidency.
Like President Obama, you never seemed that interested in serving the people of your state as a senator — your eyes were always focused on a much larger prize, and it showed.
Six years later, the bulk of Obamacare remains in place and a viable replacement continues to elude Congress; the Senate failed to pass a 20-week ban on abortion; and our nation is still no closer to passing substantive immigration reform. In fact, you stood against a serious, bipartisan attempt at immigration reform proposed by our state’s senior senator. Why?
To be fair, these failures are the collective responsibility of lawmakers. Still, it’s fair for Texans to ask, what are you doing for us?
Good news. Now is your chance to show us.
You have another opportunity to exhibit real leadership in Washington. To build the kind of relationships with fellow legislators that help them trust you and make them want to follow you.
You have six more years to reach out, listen to and engage with the people of your state — not just the allegiant ones, but the independents, the disillusioned, the beleaguered communities. You, Sen. Cruz, whose debating skills are unparalleled, have the ability to convince these people, who are told progressive is the only way to be, that conservative principles are their principles and that conservative policies are intended to increase their freedom and opportunity.
Reach out sincerely and consistently to the Hispanic community. Go to the cities and suburbs and win them back with reasoned arguments and good ideas.
And for heaven’s sake, stand up to President Trump when necessary. You’ve done it before when it mattered. Do it more often.
This election should leave you rattled, humbled and perhaps newly aware that — even in Texas, even in reliably red Tarrant County — winning elections requires more than getting out the base. It requires expanding that base. It requires principled leadership.
Start being that leader.