Home/Daniel Larison/Ted Cruz’s Debacle

Ted Cruz’s Debacle

Jonathan Bernstein considers what the pointless shutdown fight has done to Ted Cruz’s political prospects:

It’s one thing to have a reputation as a loudmouth; it’s quite another to have a reputation as a loser. That’s what the shutdown fight has done to Cruz. Among true believers he’ll be the one who was a leader in a fight that surely would have won if the squishes hadn’t sold them out. But for most party actors, including many sympathetic to Tea Partyism, he’s going to be the guy who ran up the wrong hill.

It would have been different if Cruz’s gamble had been over a minor issue that drew little attention, but the purpose of the gamble all along seems to have been to turn Cruz into a national figure and link his name to some of the most important issues available. It succeeded in making him better known, but in every other respect it has backfired badly. More important, Cruz didn’t just misread the political landscape and support a strategy that had zero chance of success, but he did so in a way that maximized intra-party divisions, burned bridges with most of his colleagues, and distinguished himself as a self-seeking bomb-thrower who ended up helping to blow up his party’s own standing. Granted, Cruz didn’t do this all by himself, and there are many others that contributed to the mess the GOP finds itself in today, but he very much wanted to be identified as the leader of the effort, and now he will pay for it.

Cruz’s error was almost the exact reverse of the one that Rubio made on immigration. Rubio was paying too much attention to what people outside the GOP thought and wanted from an immigration bill, and for that reason he failed to see how much resistance there was in the House to any bill that Democrats would support. Cruz was so determined to ignore the views of anyone outside the party and even the views of many of those inside it that he led fellow Republicans into a disaster while remaining oblivious to the danger. Cruz’s debacle has been much more significant for the GOP because the party’s leaders ended up going along with his losing strategy.

What may hurt Cruz’s prospects as a presidential candidate most is the fact that he will not or cannot acknowledge that he was wrong in promoting his failed strategy. As if to prove how oblivious to political reality he is, he was at it again today in his speech this morning. He kept insisting that his obviously failed strategy was working:

“The House of Representatives needs to keep doing what it’s doing, which is standing strong,” Cruz told attendees at the Value Voters Summit.

Cruz may not yet realize how badly he and his party have lost the fight he wanted to have, but more and more of his colleagues are and they will presumably know better the next time that Cruz wants to take them off on a wild good chase.

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.

leave a comment

Latest Articles