Over the past year, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have become the most vocal members — both in session and in the media — of the Republican caucus. They have been loud, they have been rowdy and they have blurred the lines between conservatism and libertarianism. The merits of the integration of libertarian beliefs into mainstream Republican ideology aside, the Republican Senate caucus lacks a strong conservative voice to present views contrary to those of Sen. Paul and Sen. Cruz. They lack a conservative, photogenic, young leader to inspire the next generation of conservatives who are unimpressed by Sen. Paul and Sen. Cruz’s shift toward libertarianism. However, the next great communicator of conservative values to the American people could be just around the corner, in freshman representative and Republican Senate candidate Tom Cotton (R-AR).
Although you wouldn’t know it from today’s dismal politics, representatives and senators are elected to represent the constituencies that sent them to Washington. Perhaps Rep. Cotton’s greatest strength is the manner in which he connects to his constituents and their values. Cotton grew up in one of the small cities that dot his district and much of Arkansas, and much of his childhood was spent under then-Gov. Bill Clinton. He learned then to appreciate the value of a well-mannered, sincere campaign which appeal to so many Arkansans, and which he emulated in his 2012 campaign — expect him to uphold this high standard in his 2014 Senate race.
Rep. Cotton has also drawn hard lines on many issues that are important to Arkansasans. Cotton stands firmly against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), stands against the amnesty bill and is a loud legislative voice for social conservatism, representing well his state’s large population of evangelical voters. He truly embodies the values Arkansans pride as evidenced by the recent election of Sen. John Boozman in 2010 and the first Republican state senate since Reconstruction.
As important as local politics are, on the national level Rep. Cotton should strike fear into the heart of any Senate Democrat. He is soft-spoken, articulate, incredibly well-educated and ardently conservative. While Harvard-educated (he wrote for the Crimson) and a noted leader during his military tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, Cotton remains in touch with his small-town upbringing and values.
And Cotton’s promise is not going unnoticed. Not only does he boast endorsements from Club for Growth and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), he also is held in high regard by the Republican establishment. Cotton cites Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as a role model — but while he has garnered an endorsement from the notoriously wishy-washy McCain, he votes in a way that makes him the role model of conservatives across the United States: his foreign policy is rooted in his four years in the U.S. Army, and his fiscal policy is rooted in experience in private sector consulting.
As a hawk in the foreign affairs arena and a champion for smaller government and traditional values at home, Rep. Tom Cotton’s election in 2014 is imperative to create a conservative alternative to the young, vocal libertarian cadre of Republican senators; he could build a needed bridge between the rhetoric of Sen. Cruz and the actual agenda of the Republican caucus as a whole. When Representative Cotton becomes Senator Cotton, conservatives tired of a Republican party beholden to libertarians will finally have an articulate opposition.
—Tristan Bagala is a freshman studying international affairs
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