Few have done as much to pave the way for Donald Trump as Ted Cruz. Say what?
And yet no one stands to gain more from the eventual failure of the Trump campaign in November than Cruz
One of the greatest ironies of the 2016 presidential race is this—few did as much to create Donald Trump as Ted Cruz.
When the freshman Sen. Cruz arrived in Washington in 2013, he did so in a way that revolutionized conservative politics. Previously, conservatives argued over issues—in 1976, for example, former Gov. Ronald Reagan slammed moderate President Gerald Ford for not being conservative enough on issues like the Panama Canal. In 2013, for the first time, Sen. Cruz made an argument not about issues but about tactics. Mitch McConnell, who routinely scores ratings north of 90 percent from the American Conservative Union, was labeled a sell-out because he didn’t use the right tactics in fighting Obama.
This shift in the definition of conservatism most famously came to light in Cruz’s 2013 filibuster over Obamacare. Again, the issue wasn’t that Republican congressional leaders supported Obamacare; indeed, they had voted repeatedly against it. The issue was tactics—Sen. Cruz said more should be done to fight back including using a filibuster. Never mind that the Democrats ran the Senate at the time and that repeal of Obamacare had zero chance to succeed.
Yet though Cruz’s focus on tactics failed to repeal Obamacare, it did succeed in tapping a nerve. Around the country, conservatives began complaining about the tactics of congressional GOP leadership. And so Sen. Cruz continued to blast Mitch McConnell as much or more as he blasted Harry Reid. For two years leading up to his presidential run, Cruz laid out his case that what Washington needed was not just a conservative, but a fighter. As Cruz never failed to remind voters, it’s not enough to talk conservative; rather, candidates needed to “show” what they had done. Many times, the example he cited for himself was his failed 2013 filibuster.
This shift to a focus on tactics helped Cruz become a darling of the right. But it also had an unintended consequence—it paved the way for Donald Trump. After two years of hearing that what was needed in Washington was an outsider who didn’t do business as usual, is it any surprise that so many Republicans are now turning to Trump? After watching Cruz try to set D.C. on fire with matches, GOP voters are eagerly embracing Trump and his blow torch. Who better, the voters seemingly are thinking to themselves, to burn Washington down than a self-funded populist and an outsider?