The Ted Cruz Crusade: Part 1, A Cause in Search of a Strategy—unless the Cause Was to Bring Ted Cruz to a Specific Kind of National Attention

The following piece was written by my former student and friend Mike Lamm. Mike is a reporter for the Decatur Daily Democrat.

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A recent poll by NBC news and the Wall Street Journal confirmed what most of us already know; that despite a concerted effort by the GOP to cloud the facts, most Americans blame Republicans for the most recent government shut. In addition, the poll shows that only 24 percent of the population has a favorable view of Republicans in general (the lowest number in the poll’s history), and fewer than 21 percent hold a favorable view of the Tea Party.

This is damning news for the Tea Party and favorite Ted Cruz, (R) Texas, who had led the charge on Capitol Hill to hold the government fiscally hostage in a failed attempt to force the Obama administration to make concessions on the Affordable Care Act, the national health care initiative that was passed into law by Congress in 2010 and was upheld by the U.S. Supreme in 2012.

Cruz has been in the headlines recently, but for all the wrong reasons.

Senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate and a strident conservative, recently referred to Cruz, Rand Paul and other members of the Tea Party who proposed defaulting on our national debt as “wacko birds.” He derided the efforts to defund “Obamacare” as “not rational” and “a fool’s errand.” Although he has since apologized for the “wacko bird” comment, McCain is just one of many in the GOP to question Cruz’s tactics.

Other conservative voices as well as members of the Republican party have joined the chorus against Cruz.  On his morning program, former Florida Republican congressman and current talk-show host Joe Scarburough has called Cruz a “total train wreck” and “completely and willfully ignorant.” “He is just desperate not to look like the biggest fool in Washington, D.C.,” Scarburough recently stated.

Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, commenting on the pending government shutdown Cruz has supported, stated last week that “Republicans made a mistake, they picked a fight, they had no strategy, they had no endgame, they had no plan.”

Senator Bob Corker (R), Tennessee, simply called Cruz “confused.”

Another Republican, representative Peter King of New York, has called Cruz a “fraud” and has accused him of living in his own “echo chamber.” “I hope people will get the message this guy is bad for the party,” King said, adding “We can’t be going off on these false missions that Ted Cruz wants us to go on. The issues are too important. They require real conservative solutions, not cheap headline-hunting schemes.”

Pulitzer prize-winning conservative columnist and FOX news panelist Charles Krauthammer warned that Cruz was “leading Republicans on a suicide mission” in his efforts to defund “Obamacare.” “I admire the sincerity and the passion of those who don’t want to pass the budget unless you get rid of Obamacare, but its utterly impossible in the real world,” he said.

Referring to Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R), Utah, Krauthammer added “These are the generals who lead people into the Battle of the Little Big Horn and then go home and have lunch, leaving the troops out there.” He labeled those attempting to defund “Obamacare” by holding the government hostage as members of a “kamikaze brigade” and a “suicide caucus.”

Echoing similar sentiments recently was Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and an ardent Tea Party supporter. “I think it was very possible for us to delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year until Cruz came along and crashed and burned,” Norquist told the Washington Post recently. Cruz needlessly dragged Republicans “across broken glass” in his quest to defund the Affordable Care Act and “should apologize for pushing an impossible task,” Norquist said.

“No one is questioning his conservative credentials,” Norquist commented. “It’s his wisdom and his judgment and the name calling that he has thrown at every Republican in the House and Senate,” that makes no sense, Norquist stated. Cruz “pushed House Republicans into traffic and then wandered away,” Norquist quipped. Then, he simply “stood on the side and confused people,” he added.

And even Karl Rove, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Republican political consultant and principle advisor to the American Crossroads Super PAC, has stated Cruz’s “fellow senators don’t know where he is coming from.”

Rove went on to say the attempt to defund “Obamacare” by holding the government hostage over debt ceiling negotiations “was a strategy laid out by Mike Lee and Ted Cruz without any consultation with their colleagues.” He added, “You cannot build a congressional majority in either party . . . unless you are treating your colleagues with a certain amount of respect.”

That respect is sorely missing in Cruz’s approach to governance. For someone who holds impeccable academic credentials, his actions seriously bring his highly-touted intellect into question.

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I would add that none of this makes sense unless the defunding of “Obamacare” has not in itself been the real reason for Cruz’s actions. It does make sense, however, if his main intention has been simply to promote his own candidacy to the Right’s “lunatic fringe,” which is now, paradoxically, one sizable part—and probably the most sizable part– of the GOP’s base.

Those people are the 21% who still hold a favorable view of the “Tea Party,” and they will constitute about 40% to 50% of the “likely” voters in most Republican primaries in 2016.

And for the reasons that Aaron has outlined in his recent post, “Want to Understand the Tea Party? Look to How They See Themselves,” the widespread, vociferous denunciations of Cruz, especially among Republicans, will serve only to endear him to that part of the base.

So, at this point, it’s less about being popular than about being hated and about embracing that hate in order to project it back.

What endears Cruz to the Far Right may make him unelectable in a general election, but it is his quickest and surest route to the nomination, and without the nomination, electability is a moot point. Furthermore, once he has the nomination, who’s to say what might happen.

For many Baby Boomers, Richard Nixon was a truly villainous political figure. But he won the presidency in 1968, and in 1972, he won re-election in a landslide of historic proportions. The Watergate cover-up forced his resignation, but it was not at all the main cause of his re-election. People voted for him because, in a period marked by political, social, and, increasingly, economic turmoil, they thought that a real prick was a better choice than a guy with a conscience, which was what George McGovern was.

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