Home/Daniel Larison/Movement Conservatives Are Far Too Eager to Cheer On Their Politicians

Movement Conservatives Are Far Too Eager to Cheer On Their Politicians

Conor Friedersdorf pours scorn on Jim DeMint’s apologia for Ted Cruz:

What a load of premature hype. The leaders of movement conservatism are constantly doing this: They decide on a champion, be it George W. Bush or Rick Perry or Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, and extol their manifold virtues in the most absurdly exaggerated ways imaginable.

Conor’s observation about bad movement conservative habits is correct. There is a tendency to build up new or obscure Republican politicians, invest them with all sorts of qualities that they may or may not possess, and turn them into minor cult figures. Then when the object of the cult comes under criticism for something he does or says, the common response is not to judge the criticism on the merits, but to rally around the cult figure and profess loyalty to him all the more for having endured the attacks. To put it mildly, this is not a healthy way to relate to political leaders. It encourages fawning admiration and blindness to politicians’ weaknesses, and that in turn undermines accountability and enables politicians to promote policies that even their own admirers may find undesirable. Movement conservatives are too eager to cheer on politicians from their own side and don’t do nearly enough to hold them accountable. The praise that is being heaped on Cruz in recent weeks is one of the more annoying examples of this.

In this case, DeMint’s defense of Cruz is worse than this because he pretends not to understand why Cruz is come under so much scrutiny so early in his first few months in office. The problem that most of his critics have with him isn’t that he has become a reliable no vote on many pieces of legislation or even that he opposes the nominations Kerry and Hagel. I think opposing Hagel’s nomination on the basis of hard-line ideological litmus tests is extremely foolish and mistaken, but Cruz is entitled to oppose any nominee he wants. It is the manifestly unscrupulous, dishonest manner in which he has chosen to oppose Hagel that grates on people.

If he had simply been asking “pointed questions,” he wouldn’t have been singled out for so much criticism because he would have been no different from his Republican colleagues. Instead, he chose to put forward false or misleading information about Hagel, accused him of believing things that he didn’t believe by distorting evidence, and generally conducted himself as an obnoxious demagogue angling for the spotlight. Cruz may have promised to be uncompromising, but I’m reasonably sure he didn’t promise to be dishonest. DeMint’s argument is that Cruz should receive political benefits from his grandstanding but not have to pay any price for it.

Update: Weigel summarizes one of the reasons Cruz has faced legitimate criticism for his recent conduct:

Cruz was implying that Hagel straight-up lied, or lied by omission, on his ethics forms. In nominee questionnaires, Cabinet nominees have to declare whether they have “received any compensation from, or been involved in any financial or business transactions with, a foreign government or an entity controlled by a foreign government” in the 10 years before their nominations. Hagel answered “no.”

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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