It turns out that when a still-candidate Donald Trump called him ‘Lyin’ Ted,’ his assessment of Texas Senator Ted Cruz wasn’t too off the mark. ‘Disingenuous Ted’ or ‘Unprincipled Ted’ just don’t have the same ring to them, and I have to doff my hat to the President for having an ear for a catchphrase.
Cruz has pulled out all the pandering stops in his bid for re-election this November, as he faces a tougher than anticipated fight against Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke. He has emphasized his positions as a hardliner on immigration, an enemy of gun control, a man of the people.
In fact, Ted Cruz is trying so hard to double-down on his folksy person impersonation that he even invoked the Simpsons at CPAC saying, "The Democrats are the party of Lisa Simpson. And Republicans are happily the party of Homer, Bart, Maggie, and Marge."
Topical, Ted. And spot on. Democrats are the party of the literate, over-achiever with diverse interests. The Republicans are the party of an incompetent alcoholic, a miscreant and criminal, a baby, and their long-suffering wife and mother too shackled by propriety to take charge. Ted Cruz must be a huge fan.
However, his quaking in his boots is not totally without justification. His opponent in the upcoming election out-fundraised him in the last quarter to the tune of $500,000. While Ted still enjoys a muscular lead in financing, O’Rourke is gaining ground without the help of PAC donors.
The shifting demographics of Texas aren’t doing him any favors either. What with Austin’s devotion to being weird, Houston and Dallas’s increase in immigration and urbanization, the die-hard semi-rural Republican is a dying breed. Ted must make concessions to win votes.
While a politician changing their position or pandering during election season is nothing new, it is a particularly tough pill with Ted Cruz, a man who touts principle on the regular.
Remember the plea in 2016 during the Republican National Convention, where he urged people to “vote with their conscience” ahead of voting along the party line? Or perhaps the time when he said he would not be a “servile puppy dog” to a man he described as a “sniveling coward,” a “serial philanderer,” a “pathological liar” who is “utterly amoral”? The man who called his wife ugly and said his father was involved in the murder of JFK before fathering Ted in Canada - surely Ted would never cow tow to him.
And yet that’s exactly what Ted did, and almost immediately.
He joined the President and First Lady for dinner at the White House, he stood behind him during the election and later declared that “on substance, [Trump’s] record of delivering has been remarkable."
The latest news in the apparent Trump-Cruz love affair was the President’s tweeted endorsement of Cruz – along with a slew of other Texas Republicans – which was met with the following tweet from Cruz.
.@realDonaldTrump Thank you, Mr. President! Together, in 2017 we accomplished a lot for our country & we still have a lot of work to do: cutting taxes, reducing job-killing regulations, repealing Obamacare, and confirming constitutionalist judges who’ll defend the Constitution. https://t.co/MCJHCAi6uX— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 27, 2018
Hear that? It was the last vertebrae of Ted’s spine evaporating.
What sticks in my craw particularly about this whole charade is not that Ted has managed to get past the character assassination of the campaign – that much is to be expected and even admired among political opponents – but his abandonment of convictions that the President is morally and intellectually unfit for office.
When was he lying, on the campaign or now? Did he not sincerely believe Trump to be a shyster and coward, or does he now believe that toeing the party line justifies throwing those reservations to the wind in the name of moving an agenda along?
I’m going to give Ted Cruz the benefit of the doubt here and assume that his convictions, as much as he can be said to have them, are on hold and that he is now compromising on them to “get things done.” However, compromise is something that can only be made amongst opponents between whom there is a mutual respect, and perhaps some common ideological ground. For example, if Ted Cruz decided to put his differences with Marco Rubio aside in the name of policy-making I would laud that without reservation.
But this is a different species, one that is characterized by opportunism and a thoughtless need to maintain power.
This is a disease which permeates American politics and affects both sides of the aisle in equal measure. While Republicans are currently bedfellows with a worse monster, the partisanship inherent in contemporary politics has forced former people of principle to abandon their convictions in favor of maintaining unity within their respective parties.
The calculus is always “well, better us than them,” whatever the cost. At what point do the benefits of partisanship and party unity outweigh the cost of scores of politicians behaving in a way which is inconsistent with their conscience? Or, in the case of Ted Cruz, inconsistent with basic human decency.