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Ted Cruz's Brilliant Stupid Plan

His faux filibuster will be great for his career—unless he actually aspires to be president.

Photo Credit: Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock.com


Ted Cruz announced yesterday that he would filibuster Obamacare, and not stop until he could not stand anymore, or at least until his allotted speaking time was up. Thanks to Majority Leader Harry Reid, Cruz was given 21 hours in which to pretend to “filibuster” a Continuing Resolution until it was time for a cloture vote that Cruz has known all along that he would be unable to delay or block. Everyone knows this fun talk was entirely a waste of time. Everyone besides the people it’s actually aimed at:  Right-wing Obamacare hating Fox viewers who don’t understand how the Senate works. To them, it’s an inspiring Mr. Smith moment, and they took down the names of every Republican who didn’t #standwithCruz.

There’s some debate as to whether Cruz is crazy-like-a-fox or just an idiot with an inflated ego, but the fact that he could be either shows how little it matters. He thinks he’s quite smart, he’s clearly quite arrogant, and he doesn’t care who he pisses off on the road to becoming the biggest conservative grassroots hero in the country. Which, if he wasn’t already, he might be now that he’s wrapped up his heroic, entirely meaningless all-night talking jag against a cloture vote. (The fact that, near the end of his epic free-associative cri de coeur, Harry Reid offered Cruz at least another hour of floor time, knowing that Cruz would refuse it, was a funny end to the entire charade that few on the right will notice or remember.)

Some time before this pretend filibuster,  a few conservative authors wrote some pieces disingenuously asking  why liberals were so obsessed with Cruz, why liberals hated him so much, and so on. The obvious point was, they hate him cuz they’re scared. Liberals wouldn’t trash the guy if they weren’t all worried that he will electrify American voters like a second Reagan. But in my experience liberals aren’t particularly concerned about Cruz, nor should they be, because he pretty openly cares more about attention than results. Nothing Ted Cruz has done since arriving in the U.S. Senate has furthered the cause of conservatism. It has all furthered the cause of Ted Cruz’s career.

Liberals hate Mitch McConnell, and with good reason: He’s good at his job. Ted Cruz could not be more useless as a senator when it comes to implementing the conservative agenda. On the left he’s primarily a figure of fun. It’s Republicans who are obsessed with him. And  his fellow elected Republicans despise him. John McCain and Peter King openly hate him. Others are too scared to say they hate him in public but dispatch their aides to say so to Congressional reporters.

Here’s the problem for the GOP: Their voters love Cruz, and hate actual effective legislators like McConnell.

Ted Cruz can afford to sabotage and undermine his own party, because conservatives hate the Republican Party. Poll after poll has shown that the small but incredibly vocal and active group of Americans who identify with the “Tea Party” detest the GOP, and also make up much of its voting base. “Tea Party Republicans” “make up about half of the Republican primary electorate (49%),”  according to a July Pew survey. Guess what that half of the GOP electorate wants:

Fully 69% of Tea Party Republican voters want Republican leaders in Washington to move in a more conservative direction. That compares with just 43% of all non-Tea Party Republicans and just 24% of moderates who do not agree with the Tea Party.

According to a September Pew survey,  it’s gotten worse:

The job rating of GOP leaders among Tea Party Republicans has fallen 15 points since February, from 42% to 27%. Disapproval has risen from 54% to 71% over this period.

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