Ted Cruz’s unusual strategy

It is not uncommon for political neophytes who once raged against the system to, once they get into office, temper their rhetoric in order to get things done, since governance usually requires compromise and not alienating those one needs to work with. But what begins as a tactical maneuver to get others to go along with your plans can often end up with you going along with their plans and eventually changing your own views to theirs. This process is what George Orwell satirized in his Animal Farm where the pigs who overthrew the human farmers on the slogan of “Four legs good, two legs bad” and took charge of running the farm eventually became indistinguishable in attitude, actions, and even appearance from the humans they once despised.

Republican senator Ted Cruz seems to be not following that script. I wrote recently about how, by launching his filibuster against the bill that had the clean raising of the debt ceiling, he wrecked the senate Republican leadership’s covert plan to have the bill passed with purely Democratic votes and without their own support for it becoming public knowledge.

In a radio interview, Cruz says that exposing their hypocrisy was his specific intention.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) antics in the recent debt limit vote have drawn the ire of establishment Republicans, and he’s lashing back at them as a bunch of liars and cowards who view their constituents as “rubes.”

“In the 13 months that I’ve been in the Senate, it has become apparent to me that the single thing that Republicans fear the most — and that is when they’re forced to tell the truth. It makes their heads explode,” Cruz told conservative radio host Mark Levin in a remarkable interview posted on Thursday night.

“Make no mistake about it, this was their desired outcome,” Cruz said. “A lot of Republicans wanted exactly what Barack Obama wanted, exactly what Nancy Pelosi wanted, exactly want Harry Reid wanted, which is to raise the debt ceiling but they wanted to be able to tell what they view as their foolish, gullible constituents back home that they didn’t do it. And they’re mad because, by refusing to consent to that, they had to come out in the open they had to admit what they’re doing. And nothing upsets them more.”

He is of course completely correct. As Dana Millbank writes, his Republican colleagues were already furious with him because of his filibuster and this interview is not going to soothe things.

Cruz is an enigmatic character. He is clearly a smart guy and is carrying out some plan but I cannot quite figure out what the plan is, unless he has no intention of staying in the Senate and hopes to win the presidency in 2016 on his purely outsider image. But burning one’s bridges so publicly and spectacularly with one’s own party leadership on purely tactical matters (they pretty much agree on policy) is not usually the way that one seeks higher office. The party hierarchy’s grip on the system may have been weakened, even seriously so, but they are not knocked out yet. Cruz’s flame-throwing tactics might increase his appeal with the party’s base but the leadership still has the ability to make it very difficult for him to win the nomination.


  1. colnago80 says

    My suspicion is that Cruz’s strategy for 2016 is to prevent any other tea party favorites from entering the race and entice several of the party hierarchy’s acolytes to enter. Thus, he could win the nomination even though he gets nowhere near a majority in any of the primaries. In addition as the only tea party candidate in the race, he would be well positioned to win caucus states.

  2. raven says

    Cruz is an enigmatic character.


    Maybe not. AFAICT, he is an unlikable, abrasive, dishonest sociopath. These seem to be core personality traits.

  3. Mano Singham says


    Unlikable and abrasive, no doubt. But dishonest? I cannot recall any clear evidence to that effect. As hyphenman suggests, he may be someone who is sticking to his principles, as awful as they are.

  4. Phillip IV says

    Well, if we assume that his behavior is based on strategy, rather than conviction (and I agree that he seems to be far too intelligent to believe in many of the ideas he espouses), I see three possible motivations:

    1. He might really be going all out for a 2016 run. While conventional wisdom would consider him too young for a “now or never” run, there might be factors limiting his window of opportunity (health issues, skeletons in the closet) that the public is unaware of.

    2. He knows that the party establishment has the knives out for the Tea Party, but he believes that positioning himself as the Tea Party’s most prominent face might actually make him safer. The party leadership might look for ways to rollback tea party influence without being too blatant about it, so Tea Partier #1 might have a better negotiating position for his own political future than Tea Partiers #11-122.

    3. He is positioning himself for a power-grab outside of the established parliamentary system, in the style of an “American Spring” (astroturf) uprising. (I don’t see any specific evidence that he’s doing this, and don’t consider it likely, but it’s one of the potential motivations for the way he seems to be proceeding.)

  5. lordshipmayhem says

    I believe that Cruz has been living inside the Evangelical/Teapublican bubble so long, he honestly thinks he represents the majority of Americans, rather than a vocal minority of the Right Wing. If that is the case, his tactics and strategy is completely consistent and (if it were true) would be successful in gaining him the Presidency.

    I don’t think he’s being stupid, and I don’t think he’s playing some sort of secret game. I think he’s being blind.

  6. raven says

    Ted Cruz’s Father Suggests Placing Atheists in ‘Camps’ – Newslo
    www. newslo. com /ted-cruzs-father-suggests-placing-atheists-in-camps/‎

    Nov 14, 2013 – Rafael Cruz, father of Texas Senator and Tea-Party favorite Ted Cruz, … In the past, Cruz, an evangelical preacher and avowed creationist, has …

    Ted’s father is a fundie xian minister, a creationist, science hater, and wants to put atheists in camps. That is me he is talking about putting in a camp. I can’t do it. Who would feed my cats?

    Yeah this is his father, but his father is working for Ted. And Ted never contradicts him.

    Christian Dominionists support Ted Cruz at Values Voter Summit …
    www. examiner. com/…/christian-dominionists-support-ted-cruz-at-values…‎

    Oct 13, 2013 – Christian Dominionists support Ted Cruz at Values Voter Summit … Texas Taliban pushing for Biblical creationism in science textbooks.

    Cruz is a creationist. Creationism is a lie.

    Ted Cruz is a hardcore rightwing extremist and an open xian Dominionist. He seems to say whatever his lunatic fringe audiences want to hear. I suppose maybe those are his principles, hard as it is to believe. It’s actually more scary if those are his principles, rather than him being a demagogue pandering to anti-democracy theocrats.

  7. raven says

    FWIW, there is a civil war going on in the GOP.

    According to one article I read from a thoughtful source, the establishment is losing. The Tea Party went out and raised far more money than the moderates.

    I’ll try to find it but it isn’t at all unlikely that they will win their war.

  8. colnago80 says

    I have stated on several occasions on Brayton’s blog that I consider Ted Cruz to be the most dangerous man in the Rethuglican Party. He combines high intelligence with a demagogic ability that rivals, IMHO, Huey Long, and Joe McCarthy. Not to play amateur psychologist here but he appears to be a genuine sociopath who cares not a wit for his fellows. The thought of a psychotic like him in the White House should send shivers up all our spines. As raven @ #7 points out, his father is a dangerous kook and it appears that the acorn has not fallen far from the tree.

  9. colnago80 says

    Re raven @ #8

    What moderates? The Charles Mathiases and the Tom McCalls have no place in today’s Rethuglican Party.

  10. raven says

    AlterNet / By CJ Werleman Feb 12, 2014
    Are We Watching the GOP on the Verge of Collapse?

    partial quote

    In the weeks that followed the government shutdown, it appeared establishment Republicans were finally ready to stand up to the extremists, but moderates are either folding or exiting the party altogether. Mike Lofgren, who spent 28 years in congress as a Republican wrote in his book The Party is Over that the far right “have managed, through their shrillness, dogmatism, inflexibility and belligerence, to become the center of gravity of the party. The Republican Speaker of the House, the constitutionally designated third-ranking elected official in the government, does not issue orders to them; he takes orders from them, as all of America saw during the debt-limit negotiations and the payroll tax fight.”

    The fact Christian Right stalwart Mike Huckabee leads in a hypothetical poll against fellow 2016 GOP hopefuls says much about which direction the ideological war is heading, too.

    This is a war establishment Republicans cannot win for not only is the Christian Right/Tea Party faction the most reliable and agitated voting bloc within the party, but also they’re now out raising Chamber of Commerce-sponsored establishment candidates thanks to a cabal of hyper-religious organizations, the Club for Growth, and the Koch brothers. Since August, the Koch’s Americans for Prosperity has spent more than $27 million on ads, which puts it on pace to outstrip its overall $38.5 million spent on the 2010 election.

    There you go.

  11. raven says

    Oops. Re #7

    The source is a parody website. Meaning Rafael Cruz didn’t really say he wants to put atheists in camps.

    It says something that I found it believable but checked it anyway.

  12. jamessweet says

    How is it that you folks seem to have such trouble with the idea that he might be both intelligent and believe some absolute nonsense? You know there are brilliant creationists, right? I mean, really really smart people.

    The simplest explanation here is that Cruz really believes the crap he is espousing. Such folks used to be kept out of the establishment, but the Tea Party phenomenon made such candidates suddenly viable — even attractive in the short term. And now it all comes back to bite them in the ass…

  13. Wylann says

    “In the 13 months that I’ve been in the Senate, it has become apparent to me that the single thing that Republicans fear the most — and that is when they’re forced to tell the truth. It makes their heads explode”, said Cruz[.]

    Irony meter warrantees across the globe were just invalidated….


    Unlikable and abrasive, no doubt. But dishonest? I cannot recall any clear evidence to that effect. As hyphenman suggests, he may be someone who is sticking to his principles, as awful as they are.

    I disagree. There are examples all over the place (search Ed Brayton’s blog for some doozies) of Cruz being hypocritical and/or dishonest. It’s hard to believe some of the more blatant pandering he does, that are outright lies, he sincerely believes. Now, I’ll grant that he may keep himself in the bubble enough that he buys into a lot of what he says, but there’s no way someone can get as far as he has and not know better.

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