Sen. Ted Cruz is a true GOP dilemma.
And he’s not going away anytime soon. Cruz zealously poked his own party while shaping his image as a politician able to jabber almost nonstop for 21 hours while accomplishing nothing of congressional value. That’s not exactly president-to-be behavior.
But don’t expect that message to sink in to the freshman Texas senator anytime soon. He’ll keep his eye on a 2016 White House bid. And he likely has a firmer financial base through voters too easily impressed with his spunky faux filibuster.
Cruz does underscore what is wrong with Washington. Just not in the way that he believes. His wish to defund the Affordable Care Act, even if it meant shutting down the federal government, was never going to happen. After he stopped talking, Cruz voted for proceeding with the very measure that he had just stood for more than 21 hours to stall.
Here is what Cruz did accomplish: His oratory tantrum highlighted critical divides within the GOP.
In radio interviews after his marathon speech, Cruz said other Republicans were being “beaten down” and “scared of this fight,” referring to Obamacare. His tea party supporters called Sens. Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn “turncoats.”
In reply, McConnell wryly noted the lunacy of Cruz’s efforts to stall the process, saying, “We’d be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill we’re in favor of.”
New York U.S. Rep. Peter King called Cruz “a fraud” and his actions “governmental terrorism.”
CNN’s Gloria Borger reported the words a senior House Republican who succinctly nailed Cruz’s rather flimsy credentials: “He (Cruz) won one primary in a red state in a Republican year, and now he’s busy running for president.”
You can practically see that person’s eye-roll.
The problem for these Republicans is that Cruz didn’t stand alone at the podium. Not by a long shot.
Among those who aided by stepping forward to give Cruz a break at points were Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, David Vitter of Louisiana, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Marco Rubio of Florida.
The criticized Republicans can’t take all of them to the woodshed.
Their only hope is that the general public begins to grasp that Cruz is refusing to respect the very process that brought him to the table: democracy.
Sen. John McCain made that point clear. McCain reminded that Republicans did oppose health care reform when it was being debated in the Senate, long before Cruz had been elected. McCain also was clear that because Obamacare is now law, the only way to change it is legislatively.
“We fought as hard as we could in a fair and honest manner and we lost,” McCain said. “One of the reasons was because we were in the minority, and in democracies, almost always the majority governs and passes legislation.”
The problem for Republicans is that without healing this rift within their own party, their chances of winning more seats and therefore having the political muscle to wage future battles over Obamacare or any other policy, are limited.
McCain also noted the obvious by stating that the American public did speak out about the new health care law in re-electing the president.
But that is just the sort of reality check Cruz conveniently ignores.
If the GOP leans too far toward the ultra-right mentalities of Cruz and many of his tea party constituents, it will never land the support of more moderate voters. And it’s those voters, not the combatant Cruz, who are crucial to the party’s future.