There’s been a brouhaha today over remarks Sen. Ted Cruz made to a Texas FreedomWorks audience in which he mocked his Republican colleagues for an insufficient commitment to principle on the issue of filibustering gun legislation:

“Here was their argument,” Mr. Cruz said of his adversaries in the Republican Conference. “They said: ‘Listen, before you did this, the politics of it were great. The Democrats were the bad guys. The Republicans were the good guys. Now we all look like a bunch of squishes.’”

“Well,” he said he responded, “there is an alternative. You could just not be a bunch of squishes.”

This sort of talk, of course, will not endear Cruz to his colleagues (at least those who aren’t involved in the same bullying tactics), but so long as Republicans refuse to disagree with him about what defines Republican (or “conservative,” since the terms are now co-extensive) “principles,” then they really aren’t entitled to complain. I mean, if another Republican said: “No, I don’t believe Second Amendment absolutism is part of the definition of what makes us conservatives,” then they’d have made a valid point and begun a useful debate. But what they really want Cruz to do is to go along with whatever strategy they decide upon on this or that issue and then protect their flanks with “the base,” while saving all the demagogic fire for the opposition.

But if they’re not willing to challenge Cruz’s definition of “principle,” then they really are “squishes,” not for disagreeing with him, but for refusing to disagree with him as a matter of principle.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.