About a month ago, I wrote a piece here at The Huffington Post in which I suggested that most of the people criticizing Texas Senator Ted Cruz didn't understand his appeal among conservatives and, as the title of my article suggested, weren't in his target audience. A lot has happened in the political world since I wrote that piece, as the government shutdown and battle over the debt limit has come and gone, a battle which appears to have damaged the fortunes of the national Republican Party.
So, President Obama's victory in the government shutdown showdown and the declining popularity of the GOP should spell trouble for Ted Cruz, right?
Wrong. Taegan Goddard wrote a brief piece at The Week regarding a recent Democracy Corps poll. Goddard states the key point succinctly:
Tea Party and evangelical segments of the party make up over half of all Republicans, and these groups think very highly of Cruz....Cruz may be on the fringes of the national electorate when you include Democrats and independents in the calculation, but there's nothing fringe about him when it comes to registered Republican voters nationwide. He is the GOP base.
And there you have it. Democrats and many fellow Republican senators may loathe Cruz, but for now he's succeeding among the cohort of voters that he needs the support of, particularly in his home state. Karen Tumulty reported in the Washington Post that Cruz received a hero's welcome when he returned to Texas this week. That may not be a good thing for the Republican Party in the long run, even in Texas, as this quote from Tumulty's article suggests:
"There's no way that playing to the angry crowd is a sustainable path," added a Republican state legislator, who did not want to be quoted criticizing his party's biggest rising star. "If [the Cruz forces] misplay it and continue to run into the ditch, then we will hand it to the Democrats."
I hope that legislator is correct; however, one notices that the GOP state legislator who gave that quote didn't want his or her name to be mentioned. The fact is, Ted Cruz is popular among the GOP base and the events of the past few weeks have made him stronger among that subset of the electorate. It's possible that his current unpopularity among non-Republicans will doom any chances for him to become president, but it's also possible that isn't the worst thing in the world from Cruz's perspective. Cruz has stated that "we need 100 more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate." As repulsive as that prospect would be for the decent and thoughtful portion of mankind, it should be noted that Senator Jesse Helms served in the U.S. Senate for thirty years and was a force to be reckoned with for a certain type of conservatism. Perhaps Cruz would like to take on that mantle.
So the point is this: All the eye-rolling and ridicule in the world won't get Ted Cruz off the stage. That will only happen if other Republicans stop him or if he's voted out of office. I don't need to give suggestions to Democrats on that front, but here is a suggestion for Republicans who don't want him or people like him to be leading the Republican Party, particularly in Texas: stop voting for Cruz or Republicans like him. If you want the GOP to go in another direction, get active in GOP politics to take your party back and you might need to vote for Democrats from time to time (Wendy Davis' gubernatorial run would be a good start) to get the poison out of your party's bloodstream. Until then, it's Ted Cruz's party and he doesn't want to cry.