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Everybody Hates Ted? Cruz Doesn’t Care.

Yesterday at a lunch attended by members of the Senate’s Republican caucus, Ted Cruz reportedly made an unsolicited apology to his colleagues for ruining their weekend. It’s not clear whether most of his fellow GOP senators accepted the apology. As mad as some of them were for having to cancel their plans in order to stay in the Senate over the weekend, many were also furious about the way Cruz’s decision to oppose a deal that would have passed the Cromnibus on Friday led to weekend sessions that also gave Democratic leader Harry Reid the opening that he used to get some Obama administration appointees confirmed before the end of the lame duck session. But Cruz was unrepentant about forcing an up-or-down vote on immigration. Nor is he particularly upset about the way most members of the Senate seem to think about him. While we can debate the wisdom of his positions, no one should be in any doubt as to whether they are making him a stronger candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

Cruz came into the Senate in January 2013 determined to oppose a business-as-usual attitude. But unlike most brash freshmen that eventually calm down and realize that the advantages that come from playing by the rules of one of the world’s most exclusive clubs generally outweigh the thrill of being a Capitol Hill bomb-thrower, Cruz hasn’t changed his tune. His is, as the invaluable Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News this week, a conservatism that revolves around making statements rather than “getting things done.” Most Republicans are rightly concerned about using their new majorities in Congress to show they can govern effectively. Thus, “statements” such as Cruz’s demand that every senator put themselves on record as opposing the president’s extralegal executive orders on immigration came at too high a price since it would have meant the possibility of another damaging government shutdown.

Most senators understand the shutdown Cruz helped engineer in 2013 was a bad mistake and want no part of a repeat performance. Even more to the point, they are outraged that Cruz has never acknowledged that his tactics were mistaken and furious about his belief that another attempt would be a good idea. After two years in his company, they like him even less than they did when he arrived, a sentiment shared by many pundits and party establishment figures. All of which seems to have made no impression on Cruz whatsoever. If everyone in Washington (except for a few fellow insurgents like Senator Mike Lee), hates him, that’s fine with Cruz.

Why doesn’t he care? The answer has less to do with his obviously thick skin than it does with his ambition and vision for his party. The whole point of his Senate career is to oppose getting things done in a system that he believes is set up to perpetuate liberal big-spending and taxing government. Cruz’s goal is to overturn all of that.

More to the point, his tactics are designed to establish him as the pre-eminent leader of the Tea Party movement and the conservative base. Standing on principle on every conceivable issue is a politics of statements rather than accomplishments, but it is potential electoral gold in terms of GOP presidential primary voters. Many Republicans believe with good reason that the key to winning in 2016 is in bringing in fresh voices and faces from outside of Washington, especially the party’s deep bench of successful Republican governors. But Cruz is running against the capitol from the inside and with more publicity than any of the governors has managed.

Indeed, the more hated he is by his Senate colleagues and the more opprobrium heaped upon him by party establishment figures or even wise pundits like Krauthammer, the better it may be for his potential presidential campaign. In a wide field of potential challengers, Cruz is still not taken seriously by many observers because they think him too inexperienced and, most of all, too extreme to win a general election.

Both assumptions may be true. Electing yet another freshman senator without executive experience (i.e. Barack Obama) may strike many people as an absurd idea, especially for Republicans who have spent the last six years lamenting Obama’s incompetence. But ideological purity is the sort of thing that will always play in a primary especially when someone as clever and relentless as Cruz articulates it. If Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and perhaps Mitt Romney are competing in a hidden establishment primary, Cruz is running to win the Tea Party/base primary. For those who hadn’t noticed, Cruz is winning that primary hands down right now. With every hate bomb tossed in his direction from offended fellow senators, his lead grows and his once laughable hope to win the nomination becomes a realistic if not necessarily likely scenario. Count on him spending 2015 reinforcing that image. Which means that fellow senators need to fasten their seatbelts and hang on for what should be an even bumpier ride over the course of the next 12 months.



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5 Responses to “Everybody Hates Ted? Cruz Doesn’t Care.”

  1. PAUL ZISSERSON says:

    Cruz, like many of the conservative talk-show gasbags, has much less support among the base than they thank they do. Look at the polling of Republicans. They didn’t want a government shut-down, and they want some type of immigration reform. Cruz is just not a bomb thrower, but he comes across as humorless and arrogant, or, as many like to characterize his type, angry. And angry people are unlikely to become president. President Obama is a good example. He began as a hope and optimistic candidate and president. He has become testy, petulant and angry. What has it gotten him? In part, a Republican Congress.

  2. RICH KIME says:

    I’m not a huge fan of Cruz’s, but it’s fascinating how angry it makes other Republicans to be forced on the record to support conservative principles and oppose liberal and even unconstitutional ones. Unwilling to do anything of significance to stand up to Obama’s catastrophic immigration policy, they are asked to make a symbolic and public statement about what they ostensibly believe. No wonder they are so furious! What kind of monster is Cruz!

    A politics of “making statements” might also be called a politics of “standing up for–and communicating–conservative ideas.” Which doesn’t mean I’m saying his methods are always effective. (I think Mike Lee is doing an excellent job and his efforts will be more successful long-term.)

    This short essay is one more in the endless stream of explanations why it would be the worst mistake imaginable for Republicans to do anything–substantive or symnbolic–to push back at Obama. I read Commentary just about every day and I rarely read Jonathan Tobin or Peter Whener explain just how or when they think Republicans should actually do something about Obama’s policies.

  3. DENNIS BERGER says:

    I am not pushing for Ted Cruz for president in 2016; smart guy but does not have executive ( e.g.governor or general officer) experience. That said, I agree with the man on almost every point. The Republican Party is becoming a tool of the Chamber of Crony Commerce. I will take Cruz’ advice before I will listen to a RINO like Jeb Bush. If Bush or the like try to take the nomination in ’16, there will be a lot of defections (like me) from the party.

  4. STEPHEN PARKER says:

    Cruz is not constitutionally eligible to be President. You know this, but in the most cynical way, for one or another discreditable reason, you perpetuate the ignorance of your readers. Every writer at Commentary is guilty of this truly despicable dishonesty. Commentary is begging for donations in order to keep hiding the truth from its readers.
    When Commentary disappears–sooner rather than later–there will be one less establishment Conservative media outlet misleading and betraying its Conservative rank and file readers. You have pissed on Podhoretz’s legacy.

  5. WILLIAM CARROLL says:

    I, for one, enjoy seeing somebody rile up those noxious gasbags in “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.” Their constant groveling to Leftist Democrats and crony capitalists has given us an eighteen trillion debt and climbing. I’m glad somebody up there has some principles.




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