There’s a lot of talk about optics in politics, and generally speaking, I am wildly opposed to the notion of optics. Optics refers to how one is viewed by the general public, how one’s actions are perceived. Optics are, in essence, a manipulation of perception. In my opinion, the top priority on a politician’s mind should not be optics, but actions. Actions–if they are driven by noble intent–should speak for themselves. Action should not require extra manufacturing. However, there is something to be said about making sure one’s actions are not perceived negatively, thus undermining one’s entire political philosophy.
We have a problem. Thousands of illegal immigrant children are flooding across the southern border, and Obama is promoting it. The reaction to this crisis has been sharply divided, with one side of the Republican Party viewing it as evidence of the necessity of amnesty, and the other viewing it as the opposite. Then there is Glenn Beck.
Glenn Beck decided that he was going to go down to the border, and distribute teddy bears, and soccer balls to the children. In a vacuum, this idea is a kind one, given that many of these kids aren’t the masterminds of their illegal crossing. They are pawns, in a way. They are being treated deplorably by the Obama administration, and they are indeed human. So, in that regard, Beck is doing something good. On the other hand, his behavior is emboldening the amnesty crowd, and making anti-amnesty conservatives look bad.
According to Beck:
“This is about mercy not just for the people coming across the border; this is about mercy to our own Americans – the people who are the farmers, the ranchers, the sheriff’s department that don’t sleep anymore, the border patrol…Don’t focus on the MS-13 gang members, rapists and the killers. That’s for the government. That’s for the government to do their job. That’s justice, and I demand justice. But we are to provide mercy.”
Beck then slammed the coverage of his trip by Breitbart, and FOX:
“Nobody’s reading [The Blaze’s coverage of Ted Cruz going to border]. Our viewers and our readers are not even reading it. That should be the number-one retweeted story. If you like Ted Cruz [you should promote this story.] Where’s Breitbart on that story? Where’s Fox News on that story?”
Yes, Ted Cruz did go with Beck to the border, but there is a difference between what Beck is doing, and what Cruz did. Here’s the difference: Beck used his trip, and the coverage it garnered, to slam conservatives who didn’t support him. He also made the mistake of dismissing the legitimate concerns of many Americans regarding the unmitigated flow of gang members, sexual offenders, and drug suppliers into the United States. I doubt Glenn Beck’s intent was negative, but his choice of words, and behavior just contributed to already negative perceptions of anti-amnesty conservatives.
On the other hand, Ted Cruz used the opportunity to not only swipe Obama, and his allies, but to reinforce the notion of a secure America. Catherine Frazier, Cruz’s spokeswoman, had this to say:
“…from day one, Sen. Cruz has been leading the charge to stop President Obama’s lawlessness, which is the direct cause of this humanitarian crisis…these young children are very real victims of the President’s promise of amnesty—because of it, they have been subjected to horrific physical and sexual abuse from international drug cartels smuggling them into the country…Private charities and churches are stepping up to provide food, medicine, and toys for these young children, which is a compassionate response that embodies American values…But the most compassionate response—which Senator Cruz is leading the fight to accomplish—is to end the President’s amnesty and to humanely and expeditiously reunite these children with their families back home.”
That, right there, is genius. Ted Cruz, through his spokeswoman, has laid out his position with compassion, and a thorough understanding of the law. He nailed Obama’s amnesty state while constructing his own position, which stands in complete opposition to the president’s. It’s a move that Glenn Beck doesn’t seem to understand. It is a brilliantly constructed move that uses Beck’s trip to shine a light on real conservatism, while demonstrating just how radical and slimy Obama is. I can’t say enough good things about it.
The optics of Beck’s border trip are awful. He slammed fellow conservatives, he reinforced the lie that conservatives are not compassionate, he was dismissive of a legitimate problem, and he wasted an opportunity to criticize the opposition. Cruz, on the other hand, killed it.
There is something to be said about the optics of our actions as conservatives. We cannot allow ourselves to make the mistake of reinforcing negative stereotypes, or negating our own philosophies. If we do that, the Left can and will use it against us. Unfortunately, we live in a country in which we, as conservatives, must be extra careful because the media is not on our side. The left can do, and say whatever they want because they have the media in their pocket, but we must be cautious. Ted Cruz knows exactly what he’s doing, and we need more like him to represent conservatism for what it really is.