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Why revoking Ted Cruz’s James Madison Award isn’t anti-conservative

<h6>Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian

When Sen. Ted Cruz ’92 (R-Texas) supported the lie of a stolen election and led a group of senators to object to electoral votes, he broke his oath of office, hurt our Republic, and in no insignificant way aided and abetted the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. As a result of his actions, Whig-Clio members are considering revoking the James Madison Award (JMA) he received from the Society in 2016.

Since a petition I started to revoke the award has gained enough signatures, Whig-Clio will be holding an assembly this Thursday during which members will discuss and ultimately vote on this matter. The results of the vote will be sent to the trustee board for further review. Many students, both in the society and outside it, may view the revoking of his award as politically motivated and anti-conservative. These accusations are thrown around all too often, usually without merit, and Whig-Clio has seen its fair share of this baseless criticism in the past. I want to make it clear that this is not the case, because this is not a partisan matter. Ted Cruz has gone beyond what is acceptable in our nation and its politics, hurting it in a way our Founders feared. His words and actions were dangerous, not aimed at changing policy but rather at a disruption of the peaceful transition of power.

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As it became clear that the objection would not succeed, it also became clear that Cruz’s purpose was solely to delegitimize the election and gain favor within the MAGA movement. Instead of respecting our cherished tradition of a peaceful transition of power, Cruz chose to prop up a demagogue who refused to concede the election, the results of which were confirmed by our election officials and judicial system. Not only is this the antithesis of “dedicating one’s life to the betterment of society,” as the JMA requires, it is an abandonment of our nation’s principles, which have been long held by our politicians, both conservative and liberal.

In helping delegitimize the election, Cruz has in fact caused lasting damage to our republic. 65 percent of the Republican Party now believe that President Biden’s victory was illegitimate. In the past, the public has accepted the winner as legitimately elected and the loser has conceded. That was not the case on Jan. 6, and people died as a result. 

Those of us who support revoking Cruz’s JMA understand that there will always be disagreement among people, especially when it comes to the governing of a nation, and that these disagreements may be large and passionate. However, these disagreements must be confined within the limits and rules of our constitution, and must rest on a certain respect for it. That is what holds us together as a country and guarantees the many blessings we have as a nation. We saw Cruz do the exact opposite, further dividing us and giving rise to acts of violence.

In doing so, Cruz has struck at the very heart of our democracy. We forget that democracy is a fragile thing. We have become too accustomed to democracy and take it for granted, like one who has never seen the well go dry and thus does not know the worth of the water. Our democracy is only the result of our common commitment to it, and it is by no means guaranteed to last. We must cherish, nurture, and guard it with a jealous zeal, with a watchful eye towards those who might seek to divide us. These are some of the basic sentiments found in George Washington’s Farewell Address. While I don’t have the space to lay all those sentiments out, one part of his address speaks clearly on the matter at hand: 

“... [Factions] are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

These words ring true with respect to former U.S. President Donald Trump’s actions, as well as in how Cruz led the objection to the electoral vote certification. We must not allow people like Cruz and Trump to divide us like this again and give rise to acts of insurrection, something we have not come close to since the Civil War.

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To be completely clear, Cruz bears a significant share of the practical and moral responsibility for that sad day, the consequences of which are all too real. More than 138 officers were injured, and three officers died, two by suicide. One officer turned in her gun for fear of what she might do with it. Four rioters died as well, one killed in the halls of Congress. Had the certification proceedings been uncontested, as they were in 2017 when they concluded at 1:41pm, Congress might have been done 30 minutes before rioters breached the Capitol

Instead, with Cruz leading the unmerited objections, the proceedings extended late into the night—late enough for violence. 

Moreover, we do not know if there would have been as many people at the Capitol if Cruz hadn’t led those Senators to object. We do, however, know that when the insurrectionists rifled through Senate papers and found Cruz’s electoral objection, they said, “He’s with us.” To revoke his JMA for his role in all of this is not anti-conservative, it is for us to say that this sort of conduct is unacceptable for any politician of any party. It is to affirm the principles which bind this nation together.

As you can see, deciding to strip Cruz of the James Madison Award is not a partisan matter. He did not protect and defend the United States Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Instead, he helped incite them, choosing to engage in lies for self-benefit to the detriment of our nation. As such, if Whig-Clio chooses to strip him of his James Madison Award, it will not be because he is a conservative. It will be because Cruz has forsaken long-held conservative values in favor of seditious sentiments that are rising within the MAGA movement. It will be because politicians must be held accountable to our nation’s principles and to their oaths, regardless of party.

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Brent Kibbey is a senior from Portland, Tenn. He can be reached at bkibbey@princeton.edu

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