DENVER — Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz was the star speaker Saturday at Colorado Christian University’s fourth-annual Conservative Western Summit — the first-term firebrand rallying the roughly 2,000 Republican voters here with an aggressive and unapologetic speech celebrating the power of the far-right message and detailing a plan through which he hopes to rewrite the nation’s tax code, abolish the IRS and sink the “Obamacare” health-care reform law by leading a move to starve it of funding during its crucial implementation phase.
“We have to be focused on growth,” he told the packed Hyatt ballroom. “That means remaking the tax code… abolishing the IRS.
“People tell me that Obamacare is killing the lower classes, gumming up the engine of growth. But we can end that… Over the next 60 days in Washington, we have the opportunity to defund Obamacare.”
The lines drew standing applause and came with a plea for supporters to bury lawmakers in messages that would force them out of business as usual to take bold stands during negotiations over budget matters essential to resolve in the fall. Lawmakers must agree by October to continue funding the government and by November to raise the debt ceiling to pay for money already spent. Cruz asked conference attendees to send the word “growth” to a prepared text number as a way to signal support and he sent them to a website, DontFundIt.com, where they can sign on to bolster his “defund Obamacare” campaign.
The speech came in the wake of reports that signal wariness among some Capitol Hill Republicans to continue fighting battles many constituents see as already lost and in ways repeatedly portrayed in the mainstream press as embittered and stubbornly obstructionist. Senator John McCain, looking to effect comparatively smooth negotiations in coming weeks, is now heading up what has informally been called the “compromise caucus,” a name with likely less positive than negative connotations.
Cruz’s sweeping proposals are sure to draw guffaws among politicos grown accustomed to similarly dramatic proposals advanced by “Tea Party lawmakers.” The mainstream media will describe the ideas as quixotic, self-serving, amateur and unserious — as just more distraction from the far-right fringe.
But Cruz told The Independent that that was all to be expected from members of the “Beltway class.”
“I’m not concerned with right wings and left wings. I’m more concerned with the American people. I’m concerned with what they think. I believe there’s great national center-right consensus in this country,” he said. “People see a $17 trillion debt. There’s bipartisan consensus that that has to be addressed. There’s overwhelming frustration with politicians who don’t get that.”
“Around the country, jobs and the economy are the top priority. In the Senate, we spend virtually no time talking about those things. It’s not a priority… Politics is just a battle of personalities.”
Cruz was speaking in the conference green room at a breakneck pace without pause, his knees unbent, feet planted firmly apart at shoulder width.
“We’re stuck in what I call ‘The Great Stagnation’ — 0.9 percent growth per year. So tax reform, abolishing the IRS, defunding Obamacare — these are only extreme goals inside the Beltway. But in the heartland? Should we listen to K-Street, the entrenched DC elite?
“People across the country see Washington as a strange place. People there act surprised when you go there and you do what you say you were going to do… My agenda flows from the values of the American people.”
Political conferences like this one — presidential convention-style love-fests on the right and left — seem to be growing more common with each passing year, and the invited guests here delivered motivational speeches littered with comfortably invigorating buzzwords and phrases: “freedom,” “liberty,” “take back our country.”
But under the rock-star speeches and in huddled hallway conversation hummed an echo of the shellacking Republican candidates took in 2012. Those losses mostly came as a shock to party voters like the ones gathered here who have been bombarded for years with lopsided messages from partisan media outlets and blustery local and national pundits — men like campaign consultant and formerly frequent Fox News figure Dick Morris, one of Saturday’s speakers.
Cruz told his audience to remain unbowed. “Stand by your principles,” he said. It was a message shared by almost all the speakers but one Cruz delivered perhaps most effectively.
Indeed, a running theme was that national talk of rethinking the conservative message and “rebranding” the Republican Party was a misguided and weak approach to winning voters. Better would be to stick strong to traditional values and boost the conservative cause by conveying the shared political vision more powerfully. Unequivocal dedication to free-market solutions, the Second Amendment and conservative Christianity, the speakers argued, will make GOP candidates attractive, generate enthusiasm and win expanded support.
In Colorado, the conference acted as a sort of re-introduction to center stage of the Tea Party, which generated a strong following and great enthusiasm in 2010 but lost steam over ensuing years and has drawn some of the blame for the ongoing stumbling performance of the state’s Republican party. Tea Party organizations played a prominent role here as sponsors and as speakers. Four Republican candidates for governor addressed the crowd, as did Republican members of the state legislature.