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Ted Cruz: Texas Establishment vs. Tea Party Establishment?

Sometimes Erick Erickson says interesting things:

One thing a lot of people will fail to comment on is that the Tea Party victories of 2010 have morphed into anti-establishment victories in 2012.

This strikes me as a clever way of hedging on the criticism that the Tea Party has been co-opted. In fact, he’s explicitly worried about it:

Already, as the sun rises this morning, there is a great game of co-opting happening. Republican leaders and conservative establishmentarians are already whispering that Ted is a “reasonable” and “smart” conservative. “He won’t be like Jim DeMint.”

But Republicans who praise Cruz’s credentials are not necessarily engaging in some kind of furtive attempt to claim him as a compassionate conservative. The distinction they’re making is not between the unreasonable, stupid Jim DeMint and establishment-ready Ted Cruz, it’s contrasting Cruz with truly unreasonable and stupid Tea Party candidates like Christine O’Donnell.

Furthermore, though Dewhurst was supported by a number of national politicians, the lion’s share of his support came from Texas legislators and the Rick Perry machine. It’s more accurate to call him a creature of the state establishment than a GOP apparatchik. It follows that Cruz’s victory might not be the kind of clarion call from the grassroots for the Republican Party to return to its principles that Erick Erickson and the Tea Party say it is.

Rehashing the endless and infuriating debate about whether the Tea Party is an authentically homegrown movement is not my intention, but consider this. What happened during the nine weeks between the primary and the run-off election? Did the delay (a.) allow Texan activists to organize get-out-the-vote campaigns in a grassroots groundswell that put him over the top? Or (b.) did it allow national groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks–the ones mainstream outlets always describe as ‘Tea Party-affiliated’–to descend upon the airwaves and wage a campaign of media persuasion. Of course these things are symbiotic and answer is probably some of both, I’d suggest it’s more of the latter. James Rosen has more:

More important to his electoral fortunes, Cruz received critical endorsements and millions of dollars’ worth of contributions and other forms of support from the likes of Gov. Palin, who campaigned for him; Tea Party hero and fundraising powerhouse Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; the D.C.-based Tea Party group FreedomWorks, which is led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey; the anti-tax, pro-free market group Club for Growth, whose top executive is former Rep. Chris Chocola, R-Pa.; conservative columnist and ABC News commentator George F. Will; and National Review, the venerated magazine founded by the late William F. Buckley, Jr. Ted Cruz, in short, was an establishment candidate in his own right.

And from the GOP establishment’s perspective, Cruz is probably a better choice anyway. There’s an “inescapable logic” to it, says Dave Weigel:

 Cruz is 42 and Hispanic. Dewhurst is 66 and white. …  Cruz could theoretically serve in the Senate for six or seven terms, chairing the Judicial Committee when President George P. Bush needs some lawyers put into robes. Or he could be picked, in his 40s, as the first conservative Hispanic on the Supreme Court.

With Cruz’s victory, everyone but the Texas Republican Party got what they wanted.

about the author

Arthur Bloom is the former editor of The American Conservative online. He was previously deputy editor of the Daily Caller and a columnist for the Catholic Herald. He holds masters degrees in urban planning and American studies from the University of Kansas. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Spectator (UK), The Guardian, Quillette, The American Spectator, Modern Age, and Tiny Mix Tapes.

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