Senator Ted Cruz graduated from Princeton in 1992. In 2016, he received from his alma mater’s Whig-Cliosophic Society its highest honor: the James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service. As a former vice president of Whig-Clio, I am deeply saddened by the disrepute into which I feel that Cruz has, however unintentionally, brought the Society. I have in mind the argument that he has, in effect if not intent, abetted President Donald Trump’s effort to cling to power at all costs, notwithstanding the attendant risk to the future of American democracy.
Consider the speech that Cruz gave on Jan. 6, 2021. He did not criticize Trump’s prevarication and incitement against an election whose fairness and legitimacy had been sustained through multiple recounts and juridical tests. He did not defend the proven integrity of the election. He chose instead to recommended postponing the constitutionally scheduled certification of the voting and its results. That advice, if implemented, could have prolonged Trump’s baseless accusations and further jeopardized a constitutional transition to a legally and electorally deserving Biden administration.
Soon after Cruz’s remarks, supporters of Trump rioted, invaded the U.S. Capitol, and vandalized the halls of American democracy. There is no reason to think that Cruz wanted that to happen. But he did move to block the timely certification of the 2020 election. Rightly or wrongly, that action opened him to the charge of denigrating a free and fair exercise of the right to vote and subordinating public interest to personal desire — Trump’s consuming desire to retain the presidency despite November’s verdict.
Some might suggest that Whig-Clio retroactively withdraw the James Madison Award that Cruz received four years ago. I am not arguing here for that. But I do believe that Whig-Clio should introspectively debate the suitability of the 2016 award in the light of recent events. That would at least reduce the chance that, in a cemetery on the aptly named Constitution Highway in Montpelier Station, Virginia, James Madison may be turning in his grave.