Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, delivers a speech at the Heritage Foundation Jan. 28, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

Ted Cruz Is the Symptom, Not the Disease

If the senator from Texas didn't exist, another conservative would step up.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, delivers a speech at the Heritage Foundation Jan. 28, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

The GOP bogeyman.

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Ted Cruz seems to be becoming something of a Republican bogeyman. One can imagine Republican lawmakers trudging home and telling their recalcitrant kids that if they don’t brush their teeth and go to bed, Ted Cruz is going to bring a mob of torch-bearing tea partiers over to take them away. But they should remember that Ted Cruz is a particularly irritating symptom, not the problem.

So per the San Francisco Chronicle (h/t Hot Air’s Allahpundit), House Republicans lay the blame for immigration reform stalling in their chamber at … Cruz’s feet:

House Republicans who supported the "principles" of immigration reform floated by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, late last month grumbled Tuesday that the plan was dead on arrival because Cruz blasted it as "amnesty," spurring a blizzard of negative phone calls to House Republicans.


Then there was the debt ceiling near-fiasco – or, depending on your point of view, actual fiasco – this week. The House passing the clean debt ceiling suspension teed up Senate Republicans perfectly: They could all vote against the legislation but it would still pass. The GOP would avoid crashing the economy but still get an issue with which to beat Democrats.

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on Ted Cruz.]

It was Cruz who put the kibosh on that plan, compelling a 60-vote threshold for passage (as is his prerogative as a senator), prompting the vote to last an hour before GOP leaders Mitch McConnell (facing a serious primary) and John Cornyn (facing a farcical primary) fell on their proverbial swords and cast the votes necessary to nudge the majority north of 60.

These antics have won Cruz no friends among Senate GOPers, but as Byron York points out today, he’s a cipher for a particularly problematic part of the party:

Many in the GOP believe Cruz is just out for himself. But even if that's true, they have to remember that he represents more than just Ted Cruz. There are a lot of Republicans -- it's not clear how many, but a significant portion of the party's base -- that cheers Cruz on when he battles with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They want to see a Republican throw a wrench in the Washington spending machine, even if it creates chaos and damages the GOP's standing with independent voters. And it is that conviction that is really behind the party's problems; it is why Republicans would not enjoy smooth sailing even if Cruz were to retire tomorrow.

Cruz is adept at whipping up that section of the GOP and is equally skilled at self-promotion. But make no mistake: He’s riding a wave of sentiment, not causing it. If there was no Ted Cruz someone else would fill that role; it might be someone in the Congress, like Utah Sen. Mike Lee, or it might be one of the professionally aggrieved outside conservative groups like Heritage Action or the Senate Conservatives Fund, who know a rich fundraising vein when they see one.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the tea party.]

As Hot Air’s Allahpundit writes:

Would any tea-party Republicans in the House have embraced the leadership’s immigration plan if Cruz had kept quiet? It’s not pressure from big-name conservatives that keeps them in line, it’s the fact that they come from overwhelmingly red districts and know what backing amnesty would mean for their primary chances.

So go ahead, GOPers, roll your eyes at Troublesome Ted. But remember that there are many more where he came from.