I have a new column up at the Prospect arguing that Karl Rove’s group isn’t likely to make much difference, and that for sane conservatives to really do something about the GOP Senate nominations problems, they need to take two steps: actively, aggressively push The Crazy out of the mainstream of the party, and substitute policies that can be sold as having direct effects on voters’ lives for the symbolic policies that they’ve specialized in over the last few years.

(The headline says it’s for moderates, but it’s just as much for sane conservatives as it is for moderates. If not more).

Anyway, anyone looking to see how far they are from doing this only need examine how Ted Cruz has begun his Senate career — and how the conservative media has reacted. Cruz has, basically, been a disgrace. Not that he’s “too” conservative, but that he’s doing exactly what I talked about in that column as the problems for Republicans: pushing nuttiness, and valuing symbolism over substance. All of which has earned him rave reviews from the Republican-aligned partisan press.

Indeed, look closely at an item by Andrew Stiles in National Review about how well Cruz is playing among conservatives. About his antics during the Chuck Hagel hearing:

Cruz’s blunt approach, and perhaps unorthodox tactics, became a lightning rod for liberal critics, especially after many of them had all but given up defending Hagel, whose performance was widely panned on both sides. Cruz was derided for his “bogus attack” on Hagel, for “hectoring” the nominee, for turning the hearing “into a clown show,” and even for channeling the spirit of Joe McCarthy.

For conservatives, that may be one of the surest signs that Cruz is doing something right.

There’s no sense at all that NR or conservatives in general care even slightly about whether the attacks were “bogus” or not. No sense at all that Cruz’s attacks needed to be defended or justified. All that’s important is that “liberal” critics (which basically means anyone who isn’t 100% on board with movement conservatives) found fault with Cruz: that alone is, Stiles says, good enough for conservatives.

I think Stiles is basically correct in his reporting. And if so, you can’t really paint a sadder picture of where these “conservatives” are right now.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.