People are spending a lot of time trying to figure out what's wrong with Texas Senator Ted Cruz. It's a tempting project because there's just so much material. He's a Russian nesting doll of awful. Aaron Blake at the Washington Post argued that Cruz has followed in Donald Trump's slime trail and become a full-time Internet troll. It's not like the senator has another, more pressing job.

Cruz's Twitter feed and even his public persona have long been less formal and more in-your-face than most any other member of his party. But of late he seems to have stepped up the effort, and that includes, much like Trump, latching onto undercooked claims and culture wars other Republicans have shied from.

CNN's Abby Phillip pointed out that Cruz ran for president in 2016 as a fiscal conservative but didn't get anywhere — probably because he's obnoxious and no one really cares about fiscal conservatism. It's just a euphemism for letting poor people starve. Cruz is seeing how far he can go now if he's just obnoxious. That seemed to work for the previous White House occupant, who repeatedly humiliated Cruz during the 2016 primary.

Jake Tapper generously noted that Cruz did come in second during the Republican primary, but I don't think that means much. Heidi Cruz probably follows him around the house repeating that Jerry Seinfeld bit about the silver medal: "Congratulations, you almost won. Of all the losers, you came in first of that group. You're the number one loser. No one lost ahead of you."


The gazillion other Republican candidates kept saying that the Mar-a-Lago resident wasn't a true conservative (or even a Scotsman) and that he was so undisciplined and vulgar the dreaded Hillary Clinton would easily beat him and blot out the sun with socialism.

None of that mattered to Republican primary voters, because I think politicians care more about their “exclusive club membership" than normal people. GOP voters didn't want an ideologically consistent fiscal conservative. They wanted a “son of a bitch," as an actual voter in South Carolina told Jeb Bush.

Republicans got their "son of a bitch" and they loved him, not despite how gross he was but because he was intentionally cruel to the people they hated. The best thing I can say about the one-term loser is that he's uniquely awful. While Cruz disparaged "New York values" like some hack comic with stale material, Trump pissed on the late Senator John McCain's military service. Every Republican who'd later submit completely to Trump quickly attacked him because they likely predicted tremendous political fallout. You just don't say those things! But Trump didn't apologize and his support only grew.

No focus group would've advised insulting the troops. However, Trump frequently bit the heads off political bats on stage and he managed not to die from rabies. Cruz thinks it's safe to imitate him.

Last Thursday, Cruz trolled the US Army because it ran an ad featuring a woman service member who has two mothers. He implied this made them a bunch of “pansies," which is not even a word most modern 50-year-old bigots use. Never Trump conservative Charlie Sykes observed that Cruz just “looks for new ways for people to hate him, which is extraordinary because he was already pretty hated."

Let's not overlook this point, because Cruz hasn't. He knows everyone hates him, even members of his own party. He still won re-election in 2018 against the Democrats' McDreamy candidate. Actual humans voted for Cruz again when they could've sent him back home to Cancun. (I'll get tired of this joke eventually.)

Cruz probably figures it doesn't matter if 49.9 percent of the country hates him (or even 51 percent thanks to the inherent biases of the Electoral College), as long as whoever remains votes for him because they hate the same people he goes out of his way to offend.

Moderate Democrats might swoon over “statesmen" like McCain or Mitt Romney but most Republicans just consider them losers. The twice-impeached thug was actually president. Why does it matter if Democrats didn't hate McCain or Romney if they voted against them anyway? Democrats are more likely to worry that a candidate might rudely believe in things too strongly and that will alienate the magical “middle." Republicans consider it a plus if a candidate makes us miserable. That's why they rejected Liz Cheney but donated millions to Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Romney himself defended accepting the birther in chief's endorsement in 2012 because his sole goal was reaching 50.1 percent support. He didn't care about the rest. As Nietzsche said, “The rest is merely mankind."

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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