The hall of mirrors could not be more evident in this GOP race. While Caitlyn (née Bruce) Jenner likes Ted Cruz and evangelicals endorsed Donald Trump, the GOP is more mixed up and spiked than the punch bowl at a freshman sorority rush party.
As a Senator, Cruz sailed into Washington D.C. like a brick through the jewelry store window and got the reaction you’d expect if you threw one. There’s an essential difference between Cruz and Trump. Either you like Trump for what he represents, or you reject him. Almost all conservatives like what Cruz represents, but many dislike him, some intensely.
Jonah Goldberg at National Review enumerated (How do I hate you? Let me count the ways) the objections to Cruz from conservatives and Republicans:
The chief objections to Cruz from conservative and Republican insiders boil down to three things: 1) They just don’t like him. 2) They don’t think he’s electable. 3) They think he’d be just as much of a self-interested pain in the butt as president as he has been as a senator.
Because people in Washington don’t like someone they will have to work with, should he become president, is not a reason for us to vote for them. Conversely, Trump claiming that he can get along with anyone is not a reason to cast your vote for him. Being liked, frankly, is not a qualification for the job, because many who purport to like people in power do so out of crass self interest. It’s really more important to say “no” and not care if they hate your guts than to be everyone’s friend.
That being said, the master at getting along with everyone while putting the shiv in their back had to be Franklin D. Roosevelt. He had a way of making everyone who visited him feel like they were being heard, and agreed with. When they left, FDR frequently told his advisers to never let that person see him again, and whatever they were proposing never went beyond the trash bin.
Cruz isn’t like that. He’ll interrupt people and tell them they’re wrong to their face if he doesn’t agree. That doesn’t mean he’s not a nice guy or doesn’t respect them. It just means he knows what he believes and doesn’t waste time making nice. Rand Paul, one of the thinner-skinned members of the Senate, doesn’t like Cruz because of that.
“Ted has chosen to make this really personal and chosen to call people dishonest in leadership and call them names which really goes against the decorum and also against the rules of the Senate, and as a consequence he can’t get anything done legislatively,” Paul said, referring to a spat in July when Cruz called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar.
“I approach things a little different, I am still just as hardcore in saying what we are doing is wrong, I just chose not to call people liars on the Senate floor and it’s just a matter of different perspectives on how best to get to the end result.”
Plenty of people who personally know Cruz love him. There’s a number who have despised him for years. Cruz numbers his friends very carefully, but numbers his enemies more carefully. As Goldberg noted:
And to that point, it’s worth noting that his theory of 2016 was correct. Cruz concentrated on making the right friends and, just as important, making the right enemies. He understood that the populist and working-class elements of the Republican coalition were ticked off at the establishment, and that capturing that anger would be the key to winning the primaries.
In fairness, Cruz helped to rile up those constituencies in the first place. But that’s politics.
He missed one thing: the black swan known as Donald Trump. Cruz brilliantly made his bed, and Trump leapt into it when Cruz wasn’t looking.
The fact is that Cruz is electable, more so than Trump against Clinton.
Trump keeps saying how his polling against other Republicans indicates that he should be the nominee, yet he “hasn’t even begun” to hit Clinton. That’s nonsense. Trump’s been ahead just about the entire race since July, except for a brief time when Ben Carson eclipsed him in October. He can’t claim polls to bolster him against Cruz and ignore the same polls against Hillary, whose lead over him has been widening.
Cruz absolutely can (and very likely will) beat Clinton. He will do better among minorities, women, and college educated voters. Many of Trump’s voters will likely revert to Clinton (since many were Democrats anyway) to keep Cruz out.
The choice the GOP faces is to accept Trump’s inclusive and unstable alliances as part of the party, hoping to play for influence by personally flattering and constantly stroking Trump’s massive ego, or go with Cruz, with whom you know what you are getting.
Cod liver oil and apple cider vinegar taste terrible. But people swear by them for their health benefits. Cruz is not a “self interested pain in the butt” that Goldberg noted was an objection to him. He stands for something more than just his own grandeur.
Deep down inside, the party faithful know Cruz is the man–even bitter Rubio supporters who believe the worst about Cruz know this. The man who is running as an outsider is really the most connected and self-interested insider, who would turn the GOP into his personal toy at the cost of the party’s long-term viability. Cruz will preserve the GOP and uphold the Constitution.
It looks like Kasich and Rubio are going to do the right thing and line up behind Cruz. Like him or not, they’ve learned to live with him, and the rest of the GOP should too.