Cornyn's record out of step with Texas conservatives

Cornyn may claim to be conservative, but voters want more than a Bush-era big government conservative and Cornyn's record betrays him. Photo: Associated Press

TEXAS, January 8, 2014 — John Cornyn and many other Republican incumbents face significant primary challenges. They may have gotten away with symbolic conservatism for years, but today voters are looking for positive change in he Republican Party and for a more authentic and consistent conservatism, as exemplified by Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz in the Senate.

It is not that John Cornyn is not conservative. He is just not the right kind of conservative for the post-Bush Republican Party. 

There was a time when it was enough to be pro-life and pro-gun. That standard has fallen by the wayside for something much closer to the vision of conservatism held by Edmund Burke, the father of Conservatism, or Barry Goldwater, Mr. Conservative.

John Cornyn may be conservative by the George W. Bush standard, but Judged by the Burke-Goldwater standard or even by comparison to Ronald Reagan, Cornyn’s conservatism fails in three vital areas.

Republican voters are now expecting real fiscal conservatism. They want to see budgets cut, entitlements reformed and the financial burden of government on the people substantially reduced. The past standard of just reducing the rate of government growth while growing the GDP won’t save us from the fiscal disaster which many see looming. They are demanding more.

Republican voters value civil liberties. They think that their party should be different from the Democrats and stand up for the rights of citizens to privacy, free speech and free association. They want government off the backs of the people as well as out of their pocketbooks. They still oppose abortion and support guns, but every Republican candidate passes that test. They want more substance.

Republican voters want party reform. Party leaders who supported Bush and refused to stand up to Obama are perceived as failures and traitors. They are the ones who collaborated in exploding debt and eroding liberty under the last two administrations.  They sold the integrity of the party to the banks and international corporatists.  They are not trusted to reverse these trends.

Unfortunately John Cornyn has a record that he cannot run away from, which fails to meet these new standards.

Cornyn is not a real fiscal conservative:

  • Voted to bail out Wall Street with the $700 billion TARP bill. 
  • Voted for the massive and ongoing expansion of entitlement spending in Medicare Part D.
  • Voted to raise taxes on 77% of the population with no spending cuts in the Fiscal Cliff deal.
  • Repeatedly voted against conservative budgets with substantial cuts like those proposed last year by Rand Paul and Mike Lee.
  • Voted to raise the debt ceiling eight times since 2002, allowing Bush war spending and Obama welfare spending to drive the nation to the bring of bankruptcy.
  • Voted to continue funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and even voted to keep funding for Egypt after their coup.
  • Voted to increase the federal minimum wage, an unnecessary interference in the market which hurts small businesses and costs jobs.
  • Voted to allow the Democrats to fund Obamacare by not holding the line on a key cloture vote, letting funding pass on a bare majority instead of requiring supermajority.
  • Failed to vote against the Marketplace Fairness Act which enabled widespread taxation of internet sales.
  • Is not a cosponsor of any of the pending bills to protect citizens from internet taxes like the Internet Tax Freedom Act.

Cornyn does not stand up for the rights of the people:

  • Voted to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act, allowing massive government surveillance of citizens without warrants and expanding detention powers for law enforcement without due process.
  • Voted to renew and expand the FISA act, allowing warrantless surveillance of American citizens, including enabling the NSA’s massive illegal domestic data collection program.
  • Voted for the 2012 NDAA act which included provisions for the indefinite and warrantless detention of citizens without charges, a warrant or due process.
  • Voted against banning torture of detainees by the US military through a reform of military interrogation rules and proposed an amendment to protect those who torture illegally from prosecution.
  • Supported the PIPA act up until it was clear it would be defeated. It would have given government the power to shut down websites without due process for the convenience of bureaucrats and corporate interests.
  • Has not signed on to cosponsor any of the pending surveillance reform acts in the Senate including the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act.

Cornyn stands against party reform:

  • As Senate Minority Whip, Cornyn is a key part of the party leadership and responsible for efforts to intimidate and punish reform-oriented Senators who do not support the big spending, anti-liberty agenda of the leadership.
  • As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee Cornyn controls a huge campaign warchest and has consistently spent that money  against reform candidates in important primary races, including opposing Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in their initial bids for election to the Senate.
  • Cornyn has publicly attacked fiscal conservatives like Ted Cruz who stood up against Obamacare and he worked with the leadership to undermine Cruz’ defunding efforts.  Cruz has pointedly chosen not to endorse Cornyn for reelection.

Texas Republican Primary voters are highly motivated and well informed. They voted overwhelmingly for Ted Cruz in 2012 and they like the kind of pro-liberty, small government values which Cruz represents. They are very aware that Cornyn is part of the Bush-era GOP and one of the major players in a party establishment which is in the way of changes which they are demanding.

Cornyn is no Ted Cruz and is out of step with the conservative trends in the grassroots of the Republican Party. His record makes him very vulnerable to a Republican of principle who embraces change and the kind of conservatism the voters want. 

As Cornyn’s main challenger, Congressman Steve Stockman has a record of his own to run on. It’s much stronger on the fiscal and civil liberties issues where Cornyn has failed and it includes being one of Cruz’s main allies in the House.

The election remains Cornyn’s to lose, but he is out of step with Texas voters and there may not be enough money to make up for his record and buy those voters back.

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Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle has been writing political analysis since the 1980s for newspapers, magazines and now online journals. He is currently Execitive Director of the Center for Foreign Policy Priorities, is on the board of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, and served four years as National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus.

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