For the candidate in second in this presidential race, Ted Cruz, there has been some smart writing of late about why – despite his obviously more robust conservative credentials and a resume that looks far more presidential – Washington Republicans give the appearance of being so much more open to the prospect of a Trump nomination than they are to Cruz. Jonathan Martin writes on the issue here.
“[T]he cadre of Republican lobbyists, operatives and elected officials based in Washington are much more unnerved by Mr. Cruz, a go-it-alone, hard-right crusader who campaigns against the political establishment and could curtail their influence and access, building his own Republican machine to essentially replace them… “Trump won’t do long-lasting damage to the G.O.P. coalition,” said John Feehery, a Capitol Hill aide turned lobbyist. “Cruz will.”
Charles Krauthammer says that should Trump win Iowa, he will receive the endorsement of at least one establishment governor or senator, and at that point become the inevitable nominee. Why the rejection of Cruz?
“I think the short answer is because everybody who knows him in the Senate, hates him. And I think hate is not, is not an exaggeration. The enmity which he wears on his sleeve as, with pride, is something that he’s now, you could almost say cultivated. To make him a freshman senator with no particular record into a national figure rallying everybody against the Washington cartel, you know Republicans in the Senate, in the House have been out there half of their lives, don’t appreciate being called essentially traitors to the cause of conservatism. And then you get antipathy and they will put that antipathy perhaps even over what’s best for the party.”
“It appears that these Republicans are so blinded by their personal hatred of Cruz that they’ve convinced themselves that the party would be better off choosing somebody who represents everything they claim to abhor. In making this calculation, they are exhibiting the same shortsightedness and lack of pragmatism that they claim to hate about Cruz… Following [Bob] Dole’s comments, a number of sitting U.S. Senators, led by Orrin Hatch, trashed Cruz to CNN. Hatch claimed that while Cruz would lose the nomination, “I’ve come around a little bit on Trump … I’m not so sure we’d lose if he’s our nominee because he’s appealing to people who a lot of the Republican candidates have not appealed to in the past.”
Coming as it does from so many Washington politicos who have for years said it was beyond the pale to attack fellow Republicans, and how dare conservatives not rally behind their chosen candidate, the hypocrisy here of rejecting a lifelong Republican in Cruz for a Republican of convenience in Trump is laughable. The motivations are obvious: first, there is the personal animus; second, the partisan belief Cruz would fail and Trump would succeed; third, the cynical view that Trump would be a better working partner than Cruz.
Except there’s one more thing going on here too – the recognition of a threat to the existing order not of Ted Cruz the man, but Ted Cruz the model. Yes, Cruz himself is an existential threat to the established order in Washington, someone with the potential to reorient a party coalition and blow up the existing gravy train. But everyone in Washington who depends on that order is convinced that he’s a general election loser. So why the palatable underlying fear for the disruption a Cruz nomination could bring? If they’re so certain he’s going to lose, why worry?
Because the threat smart members of the Washington political elite truly believe in is not Ted Cruz, but the model he represents: that the path for an ambitious freshman politician to achieve leadership of the Republican Party in this day and age is not the normal give and take and deference to leaders and precedent and the way we do things around here, but instead to take a flamethrower to this system from day one. Regardless of whether Cruz wins a general election, his nomination could fundamentally transform the political incentives of the Senate and change the internal dynamics of the Senate Republican Conference. It shows that you can get a shot at the presidency not by playing along, but by playing your own game.
The potential of every two years having someone walk through the door in each new Senate class who thinks they could be the next potential Ted Cruz is an absolute nightmare for those who have thrived in their cushy lifestyles as stewards of the world’s most exclusive club. And that is why his nomination is unacceptable.