Does the GOP Establishment Think Ted Cruz Is a RINO in Conservative Sheep’s Clothing?

The Republican political class is wholly unaware that its brand is tarnished because it has at best pandered to, and more often scoffed at and vilified, its most critical and energized supporters — the grassroots conservative base.

This should have been evident from the conclusions it drew from the post-mortem it conducted after Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012: namely, that the party’s key weakness is its inability to appeal to political blocs that typically vote Democratic, and more importantly that the antidote is to advocate policies antithetical to conservatism. Rather than heeding the call of its conservative base to make a compelling case for why conservatism benefits all Americans — especially those Democratic voters who have been stuck in progressive purgatory for 50 years in our nation's cities — Republicans sought instead to out-Democrat the Democrats.

Did Republicans think that they would win by presenting themselves as the more "efficient" and "economical" welfare state party? Moreover, what difference would there be between Democrats and Republicans if Republicans were just the slightly less progressive party? If the assumption underlying the GOP's post-mortem was that it is a fait accompli that America would submit to leftism, then why did the party not advocate abolishing itself? Last but not least, the Republican Party ignored as part of its plan any strategy for increasing turnout among its perturbed but crucial conservative base.

To the grassroots denizens that are the most energized, likely Republican voters, this was all a slap in the face. They had voted in a Republican House in 2010 hoping that it would bring with it a real loyal opposition imbued with Tea Party values and principles. When they later voted in a Republican Senate in 2014 — in spite of Ted Cruz’s supposedly calamitous efforts to end Obamacare, where apparently he, not President Obama, single-handedly shut down the government — the voters further expressed their frustration with GOP business as usual. Republican colleagues did not oust House Speaker John Boehner in a vacuum.

But the Republican establishment continues in its intransigence, believing that putting lipstick on the status quo progressive Republican pig is going to work.

In its myopia, the party now views its greatest threat beyond Donald Trump as the surging Senator Cruz. Just as Jeb Bush believes that repeatedly calling Donald Trump "unserious" will somehow lead his supporters to reconsider their position, so too does the party believe that labeling Ted Cruz slick, narcissistic and highly ambitious — i.e., the Republican Obama — will somehow make primary voters reconsider him.

As Erick Erickson points out in an incisive post, attacks by Republican political consultants — let alone fellow senators — on Cruz for going it alone against his party's leadership and ruffling feathers in Washington, D.C., are precisely the words that Cruz supporters and conservatives more broadly are craving. These are endorsements, conservative dog whistles, and likely one of the reasons why Marco Rubio's attacks on Cruz over his purported support of "legalization" of illegal immigrants seem to have fallen on deaf ears to date.

Conservatives are upset with the Republican Party precisely because they feel there is not a dime’s worth of difference between a Paul Ryan House and a Nancy Pelosi House, and because Republicans run on conservative principles and govern according to Democratic priorities.

We have heard over and over the last eight years from Republicans that "if you just give us control of the House, we will stop the Obama agenda." Then, "If you just give us control of both Houses of Congress, we will stop the Obama agenda." Then, "We just need a Republican president in order to undo the Obama agenda that we aided, abetted and enabled after you gave us your vote." Next up will be, "We just have to wait until we can nominate conservative Supreme Court justices." How has that worked out in the past, by the way?