I have said that I am sick of this election and can’t wait for it to be over. But who am I kidding? In the US, we are now in the stage of permanent campaign mode, where the process for the next election starts before the current one even ends. This can be traced to the fact that unlike in most countries where only the maximum duration of a person’s or government’s term is fixed and elections can be, and often are, held before the end of it often with very short notice, in America the date is pretty much written in stone and so ambitious people can plan their strategy well in advance.
While it is not clear on the Democratic side who will compete in 2020, on the Republican side it seems pretty clear that Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio will be among those seeking the office. It will help Cruz and Rubio’s cases if they win re-election to their senate seats in 2018 and this November respectively. Kasich will complete his second term as governor of Ohio in January 2019 and will be able to run unencumbered by holding any office. Jeb Bush may also try again.
Cruz has now made his move with his endorsement of Donald Trump, after repudiating him at the convention. I wrote at the time that Cruz was pursuing a risky strategy that was predicated on Trump’s campaign collapsing early and dramatically. He must have thought that Trump was going down in flames and that his very public snub of Trump at the Republican convention would endear him to Republicans as the authentic conservative next time around. It looks like Cruz has realized that he miscalculated.
Trump’s support has not collapsed, while Cruz’s has, even among Texas voters. Even worse, the big money people in the party were upset with him and Trump, a highly vindictive person who holds grudges, had threated to finance a primary campaign against Cruz in 2018 and had spoken favorably of Rick Perry replacing him as Texas senator. Other Republicans, fed up with Cruz’s antics that serve only his own ambitions, have made similar moves.
Meanwhile the Republican party chair Reince Priebus warned that those who did not support Trump would face repercussions and penalties the next time they ran. Rubio had already caved to Trump. Kasich has rejected that threat. Jeb Bush has not responded as yet. But Cruz has clearly taken it to heart. And so we had the pathetic spectacle of Cruz returning to the fold with his tail between his legs, using Facebook to make his announcement. This article describes the process by which Cruz and Trump kissed and made up.
As one would expect, Cruz in his Facebook post tries to make out that his present position is as completely consistent and as principled as his past anti-Trump stance but few are buying it. The comments to his post have been largely unfavorable and angry, speaking of betrayal, but the reaction from conservatives who supported his earlier stance, like Glenn Beck, has been one of fury, while the contortions Cruz has been forced to make to explain his actions have been risible.
News reports have not hesitated to recall Cruz’s past statements about Trump.
Trump repeatedly attacked Cruz, not just politically but personally. In the course of the primary, he criticised Cruz’s wife, Heidi, for her looks and implied that the Texas senator’s father was somehow involved in the assassination of John F Kennedy.
In a dramatic press conference on the eve of the Indiana primary, Cruz called Trump a “serial philanderer”, an “amoral pathological liar” and a “braggadocious, arrogant buffoon”. The senator dropped out less than 12 hours later, after a decisive defeat.
In Cleveland in July, Cruz addressed the Republican convention but pointedly refused to endorse Trump. He was booed from the floor. The next day, he said: “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father.
“That [Republican party] pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi, that I’m going to nonetheless come like a servile puppy dog and say, ‘Thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.’”
The columnists have had a field day with Crux’s reversal, mocking him mercilessly. Here is Charles P. Pierce:
Not since 2008, when John McCain sucked up to the same forces that had soaked his young daughter in calumny four years earlier, have we seen such an abject spasm of hilarious self-abnegation as we saw from Tailgunner Ted Cruz, fearless fighter for the Constitution, dauntless soldier of the living Christ, and marshmallow-spined careerist. There hasn’t been much to laugh about in this godforsaken campaign, but I’m rolling on the floor over this one. What an absolute coward. What a comic fraction of a statesman. What a pocket-sized imitation of a United States Senator.
Now we know who the Tailgunner is. We’re just haggling about the price. Which is not very much at all.
“I’m not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my family. That pledge was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi that I’m going to nonetheless come as a servile puppy dog and say, ‘Thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.'”
Sit, Ted. Beg. Now roll over. Who’s a good servile puppy dog?
And, yes, you may have another.
While Cruz may have been able to fool many Republicans with his high-minded rhetoric, many of us did not need any further evidence that Cruz is a deeply cynical politician. He is not a principled conservative, he just plays one in the US Senate. Cruz has realized that any chance of winning the White House in 2020 must first begin with a successful re-election campaign for his US senate seat in 2018 and that he needs the full support of his party. He must be hoping that by that time, people will forget this very public revelation of what he really is.