Reagan/Bush — What About Trump/Cruz?

By James Robison Published on May 10, 2016

Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan, but there’s a lesson for both Trump and the conservative wing of the Republican Party in the Reagan candidacy of 1980.

There were several good candidates running for the Republican nomination in 1980, including Texas Gov. John Connally. He was wounded while riding in the motorcade of Pres. Kennedy when he was assassinated. All of them dropped out early except for one Texan: George Herbert Walker Bush. He didn’t drop out until May. Bush had been hard on Reagan and his supporters, famously referring to Reagan’s economic proposals as “voodoo economics.” He fought hard and well. To say there was tension between those two candidates would be an understatement.

When Bush dropped out, I immediately flew to Houston and asked Mr. Bush if he would meet with me. He couldn’t believe I came because I had not been an open supporter of my fellow Texan. But it wasn’t out of the ordinary for me. I always seek to exhort in truth and love all candidates and citizens. Indeed, although I do not endorse any candidates, I would happily meet and pray with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, urging each of them to put God first and to embrace the freedom principles that made America great and that have served to lift millions out of poverty. I am an equal opportunity exhorter.

But when I got to Mr. Bush’s office all those years ago, he asked, “Why are you here?” I said, “Because I believe you’re going to be the vice president, and you will be one heartbeat from the presidency — and I would like to ask you to pray with me. I would also like to ask you to meet with the conservative leaders you have indicated you don’t like. I think it would be meaningful if you heard their concerns and the principles that guide them.”

He said, “I’ll be the last person that Reagan would choose to be vice president.”

I said, “That’s today, but I believe he will pick you. I would like you to pray with me because I believe you love our country, and we need God’s will.” He said, “This is amazing, and I’ll do it.” We actually got down on our knees and knelt by a seat underneath the CIA picture of Cuba where the missiles were detected on a satellite photo. Bush had been head of the CIA under President Gerald Ford.

Inside the GOP Convention — 1980

Ahead of the Republican Convention that year, my wife Betty and I were asked by Texas Rangers owner Eddie Chiles and his wife, Fran, to join them at the convention and pray. As it unfolded it was interesting to listen to the discussion of who Reagan’s running mate would be. I actually rode up to my floor on the elevator with Alexander Haig and others who thought one of them might be the choice for vice president. I got off the elevator thinking to myself, It’s not going to be him.

Of course, everyone was shocked when Reagan announced that George H.W. Bush would be his running mate. Some were glad. Many were not. But Reagan knew what he was doing. Bush not only brought extensive experience on the international scene, he reassured people who were worried that a former Hollywood actor might surround himself with lightweights and yes men. Reagan quickly signaled that he would do just the opposite.

You know the outcome: Reagan won the 1980 election by a landslide (Carter barely won his own state) and in 1984 Reagan won every state except for Minnesota, where his opponent Walter Mondale was from, and he barely lost that one.

The Last Men Standing

Trump, Cruz and the GOP should take note. What if the last two viable Republican candidates became a team, as happened in 1980? Reagan needed to reassure moderates and those worried that Reagan was just a movie star who got lucky in the California gubernatorial race. Trump needs to reassure a large swath of voters that he isn’t just a reality TV show lightweight with a big ego and a loose tongue. He also needs to show conservatives that his newfound commitment to (some) conservative principles isn’t just a show. Selecting his biggest rival would signal that his ego isn’t so big that he’s unwilling to surround himself with strong, brilliant, opinionated leaders.

It could also serve as a first signal — by no means enough, but certainly a start — that he is serious about surrounding himself with conservative thinkers, and that he plans to champion conservative principles like limited government and strong protections for religious liberty.

Trump has made noises about being able to win in November without the usual conservative/moderate GOP coalition, but that’s a fantasy. Trump will need conservatives to beat a liberal Hillary. That reality is not complicated.

Trump rallies people, excites them and makes them believe they can do the impossible. He believes in correcting the course by taking a wrecking ball to some things that need to be torn down. The concern of many is that if you are going to tear something down, you need to know why it was put up in the first place and what you should replace it with. Ted Cruz understands the Constitution, the Founders’ principles and what will make America great.

He also knows the importance of appointing not only solid, conservative Supreme Court justices, but solid conservative judges to all the other federal courts, which settle the vast majority of federal cases, since most never get to the Supreme Court. As a Harvard-trained lawyer who has argued cases before the Supreme Court, Senator Cruz could be a tremendous asset, vetting and presenting great conservative judges and justices to the president.

Also, Ted’s dad is a pastor and immigrant from a country that lost freedom to socialist/Marxist ideologies, ideologies being openly touted today by one Democratic candidate, and with the other leaning that way. Socialism has never worked. It is guaranteed to make everyone equally poor and leads to economic collapse. Ted Cruz and his father could help make that case to swing voters who are flirting with the false promises of socialism.

Impossible With Men, But …

What if, by the miraculous grace of God, these two Republican politicians — Donald Trump and Ted Cruz — came together and were moved in supernatural unity? This could be seen as a way to show respect to the millions of voters who truly believed they saw something important in each of these men. The voters often see strengths the candidates need to recognize and appreciate.

And it might well require something supernatural, given their disagreements and all the mud that was slung between them. But what if the seemingly impossible happened? What if they chose to serve God and others together, for the sake of freedom, by serving one another and leading America as a team? What if they not only shook hands but got on their knees together to seek God’s best for all of us, whom the Father loves so deeply?

Talk about a miracle. The GOP might no longer be a house divided. And who knows? It might even be part of a broader national, spiritual awakening, and we could see freedom live another day so our children and their children can experience the blessings only freedom offers.

It may not happen. God may instead be delivering America into a time of judgment, giving us the misguided leadership that a misguided and wayward nation deserves. Or God may bring us the wise leadership we need but by some means and on a schedule we haven’t yet imagined. All the same, Trump and Cruz coming together in sincere prayer before the Father — despite all their differences and animosities — that is the kind of spiritual miracle we need. If not this election then soon, or we will witness the loss of freedom and see the crumbling of the greatest nation ever established by man under the guidance of Divine Providence.

I long for the best God offers to each person who will receive. I am praying for a miracle like this, and for a much-needed outpouring of grace, wisdom and the restoration of freedom’s blessings — truly the next great awakening.


Below is an audio clip of James Robison discussing this article on Dr. Michael Brown’s “Line of Fire” radio show.

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