On the Internet, a troll purposely inflames anyone he can to attract attention to himself, in hopes of wasting everyone’s time and energy. In the Republican Party, a troll does the same thing and he becomes a hero of the far right and a frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced on Monday that he had hired Paul Teller as his deputy chief of staff.
Teller — a favorite of outside conservative groups like Club for Growth — was swiftly fired from his position as executive director of the far-right Republican Study Committee in December after leaking conversations between House members.
Cruz’s new hire immediately won praise from Red State’s Erick Erickson, a leader in the movement to push the Republican Party further to the right by demanding continued standoffs in Congress and supporting primary challenges to incumbents, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) joined McConnell in speaking out against outside conservative groups in December, after several opposed the budget deal Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) negotiated with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). By hiring Teller, Cruz cements his allegiance with the groups who championed his effort to shut down the government over Obamacare, which he was able to pull off with the help of the House GOP’s so-called “suicide caucus,” many of whom are members of the Republican Study Committee.
Cruz’s willingness to spurn his party’s leaders represents just one trick in his impressive arsenal of trolling tactics.
The Harvard-educated lawyer, who argued in front of the Supreme Court nine times, recently published a 10,000-word article in the Harvard Law Review that speaks to one of the darkest fantasies of the Tea Party movement: How the United Nations is coming to take our golf courses.
The Daily Beast‘s Ben Jacobs points out that Cruz is artfully speaking to the fear of a world government, a fringe idea that’s surprisingly widespread among the Republican base. If he spoke about his concerns about the UN on network television, he would be deemed “wacky” or “wackier.” So instead, he’s presenting them in one of the most prestigious law journals in the world.
The senator’s immense intellect gives him the ability to frame his extremism in acceptable venues. And it also enables him to make convenient arguments against the president that serve his agenda but crumble under scrutiny.
In an attempt to brand Obama as “imperial,” Cruz attacked the president for ignoring federal law in effectively allowing Colorado and Washington state to legalize marijuana.
This critique raised the hackles of Jacob Sullum at Reason.com, who points out that the federal government has virtually never prosecuted personal marijuana use. The Department of Justice has retained the right to crack down at any time, something the senator decided not to point out. But for now, the DOJ has decided to use its “limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent, and rational way” — as it always has.
But since Cruz lumped his concerns about marijuana legalization in with a screed against Obamacare, he knows that few in the audience he’s trying to reach will parse out what he’s saying.
The shutdown that the senator championed has led to new lows in popularity for the Republican Party.
However, a big chunk of the GOP’s unfavorable rating comes from the party’s base.
In a recent YouGov/Economist tracking poll, 37 percent of Republicans viewed the members of their own party unfavorably, compared to 10 percent of Democrats. Many Republicans believe the party actually gave up too soon in the government shutdown standoff. They want constant, unwavering opposition and charges of lawlessness against the president.
Essentially, they want the party to be made up entirely of Ted Cruzes.
We’ve been telling you about the remarkable descent of Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) from Republican savior to Tea Party troll.
But Rubio’s problem is that compared to Cruz, he’ll always be a squish. He’s dabbled in bipartisanship and proposed “amnesty” for “illegals.” Even if the junior senator from Florida ultimately votes against his own bill, he’ll still be the kind of Republican Ted Cruz lives to crush, even if the senators agree on almost every conceivable issue.
This isn’t because Rubio is not intent on being disruptive or contentious or a “walking press release announcing a no vote.” It’s because he’ll always be in the shadow of a true master of the form.
Photo: jbouie via Flickr