You might not love what our freshman U.S. senator is doing in D.C., but I think you’ve got to love the fact that he’s doing it. You’ve got to love it because you like elected officials who do exactly what they said they were going to do if elected.
Anybody who’s surprised by the first three months of GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s six-year term wasn’t paying attention when he was elected last year. As a candidate, Cruz was a brash (annoyingly so, to some) ideologue. As a senator, Cruz has been a brash (annoyingly so, to some) ideologue. Please understand that I, unlike some, do not believe “ideologue” is necessarily a pejorative word. And, as my family members can tell you, I believe annoying has its place.
Cruz, who was at the Texas Capitol for an anti-Medicaid expansion event Monday and an Austin Chamber of Commerce event Friday, has garnered outsized attention in Washington.
During a recent trip to D.C., I fielded questions along these lines from non-Texans: “What’s up with Cruz?” I think I’m on safe ground saying the questions came from folks who, if they were Texans, would not be voting the Cruz line.
What’s up with Cruz is pretty simple. It seems he is doing exactly what the voters who elected him expected him to do. Predictably, Democrats don’t like that. And equally predictably, some of the folks, including Republicans, entrenched in the D.C. machine don’t like it. Cruz and the Texans who backed him probably are pleased he’s annoying both these groups.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is among those who’ve allowed Cruz to get under their skin. The former presidential candidate recently apologized for calling Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., “wacko birds.” Paul is another freshman shaking things up in Washington. (Though there’s disagreement on precisely what kind of shaking is needed, I believe there is unanimity on the need for shaking.)
McCain subsequently told Fox News his “wacko bird” comment was “inappropriate, and I apologize to them for saying that, and I respect them both. I respect what they stand for and what they believe in.”
In his first months in office, Cruz has been outspoken about a lot of things, including his support of gun rights and opposition to Medicaid expansion and Obamacare. I believe there’s a fair chance those stands, right or wrong, represent majority opinion among Texas Republicans. (Several state polls have shown overall majority support for Medicaid expansion, but an American Cancer Society survey in January showed 55 percent of Texas GOP respondents opposed it.)
At the Texas Capitol on Monday, Cruz did a good job of making his case against Medicaid expansion while protesters who disagreed chanted outside the Governor’s Reception Room in an attempt to disrupt the event and get on TV. They were more successful in the latter than the former.
There was a time when I would’ve thought their guerrilla tactics were cool. That time has passed. Regardless of whether they’re right or wrong about Medicaid expansion (I happen to think they’re right), I don’t think the protesters achieved a top-shelf level of public discourse with their interruptive chanting and signs showing Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. John Cornyn and Cruz as the Three Stooges. I do not, of course, challenge their right to choose such tactics.
The much better effort for Medicaid expansion was made at a Monday news conference featuring top Democrats (yes, we have some of those), including U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, as well as some Texans with firsthand stories documenting why expansion is needed.
In another example of why I’d be a bad political consultant, I think I would have been tempted to urge Perry, Cornyn and Cruz to return the favor by chanting and parading with insulting signage outside the Dems’ event.
One last thing on Cruz. I’d be interested in hearing from anybody who regrets voting for him.