Supply and Demand

I’m sorting through all the material–and there’s a lot of agitprop along with the data–on the Oregon Medicaid study, which is being touted by conservatives as showing we should just leave the poor alone and they’ll do just fine. In the meantime, let’s talk about a much simpler issue: why is U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz behaving like a jackass all the time?

That’s more or less the question posed by Alexander Burns at Politico today, and here’s his stab at an answer:

Tell a Republican activist that Cruz is disrupting the decorum of the Senate, and they will more than likely respond: Good!

“The culture of the Senate has to change, because the direction of the country has to change,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola, a key Cruz backer during the 2012 Texas GOP Senate primary.

Republican strategist Dave Carney, who worked for Cruz’s 2012 primary opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, said part of Cruz’s appeal is that he “doesn’t really care about the tribal traditions and kabuki dance of Washington and the Senate.”

“The establishment disdain and mocking, I think, feeds his willingness to continue to do what he’s doing. If he wasn’t being effective or having an impact, we wouldn’t be hearing much about him,” Carney said.

The hostility of Cruz’s fellow senators would make it difficult for him to help broker a grand bargain on immigration reform or debt reduction — if he were interested in doing anything of the kind. So far, there’s little indication that Cruz wants to be a master deal maker.

If you haven’t by now, take a look at that new William and Mary study of the Tea Party Movement. At least half of Republican “base” voters don’t like their own party because they don’t think it’s conservative enough, and they don’t much care about incremental “results” in Congress or anywhere else; they pretty much want to burn the whole house (or the whole “welfare state”) down. For these folks, there is no greater credential than having Lindsey Graham suggest you’re too unreasonable to be an effective Senator. It’s legal tender redeemable with endless fundraiser invitations (with which Cruz has been overwhelmed) and instant credibility in Iowa, where presidential dreams begin and end.

Now Cruz seems to have the right kind of “jackass” personality to go with this insight, and that’s important. But unless his ultimate ambition is to become chief lobbyist for the Ball Peen Hammer Association or something, there’s nothing irrational about sacrificing any reputation he might someday build as a legislative whiz in exchange for immediate celebrity as the brave conservative rebel against the Democratic and Republican establishments in Babylon, whom the Lord will eventually smite with fire from heaven.

Any jackass can figure that out.

UPDATE: RCP’s Scott Conroy has a hilarious quote from some former Jim DeMint aide about the junior senator from Texas: “Ted Cruz talks like he’s a walking direct-mail piece.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.