It is well known that Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is a shameless opportunist. But could it still be Continued shameless and opportunistic than we thought?
Potentially yes, according to a Washington Post report published this week detailing how closely Cruz worked with then-President Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 election results. Journalist Michael Kranish also revealed that Cruz has known Trump attorney John Eastman — who drafted legal memos he hoped would be used to deny election certification — for decades. This raises questions about whether Cruz coordinated directly with the White House on a legal strategy to undermine the election.
Cruz’s brazen opportunism is a window into the embrace of party authoritarianism.
As a result of a conspiracy with Trump, Cruz has lost allies and friends. But today, even as more and more evidence emerges linking him to Trump’s Big Lie, he is far from a GOP pariah. Yet one of the party’s most prominent lawmakers, Cruz is openly considering another presidential run. His shameless opportunism is a window into the embrace of party authoritarianism.
According to the Post, Cruz and Trump began working on plans to undermine the election two days after Election Day, to the surprise of many Cruz aides. Cruz spoke to Trump directly on the phone, acted as a surrogate for Trump spreading 2020 disinformation on Fox News, and posed as a legal asset due to his experience working with George W. Bush’s campaign during of the Florida vote recount in 2000. Among other things, Cruz agreed to represent Pennsylvania Republicans’ attempt to block certification of their state’s presidential results in the Supreme Court. (The Supreme Court didn’t end up taking the case.) And because Cruz supported a lawsuit arguing that Texas had the power to overturn election results in several other battleground states, some of his advisers feared he was turning his back on his Conservative party. federalist principles.
But perhaps the most shocking possibility raised by the Post’s reporting is the implication raised by Cruz and Eastman’s friendship. Cruz and Eastman met while working for United States Court of Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig nearly 30 years ago. Cruz’s plan calling on the Senate to delay certification of the 2020 election results appeared to be working on a “parallel” track to Eastman’s legal memo.
When asked if he and Eastman had been in contact to contest the election, Cruz issued a cautious statement that didn’t rule out the possibility. “Sen. Cruz has been friends with John Eastman since they worked together in 1995,” a spokesperson for Cruz told the Post. months after Jan. 6, when it was made public.” And when Eastman was questioned by the Jan. 6 congressional committee about his communication with Cruz, he invoked the Fifth Amendment.
Cruz’s ideological commitments have long been secondary to his political ambition. While the Texas senator describes himself as a pure ideologue, he has given up and changed his stances on issues such as immigration, foreign policy and surveillance, fearing they could hurt his presidential prospects. One of Trump’s fiercest critics during the 2016 primary season, Cruz refused to endorse Trump’s nomination at the Republican convention, to boos from the crowd. But since then, he has become not just a stalwart but an effective ally of Trump.
Cruz’s willingness to change position depending on how the wind is blowing extends to January 6 itself. That day, Cruz questioned the legitimacy of the Senate election. The very next day, Cruz attempted to disassociate himself from Trump, feeling that perhaps his efforts to contest the election had backfired. “I think yesterday in particular the president’s language and rhetoric went overboard and it was reckless,” Cruz told a reporter Jan. 7, with a completely straight face. “I disagree with that, and I have disagreed with the president’s language and rhetoric for four years.”
Of course, since then, Trump, other GOP politicians, and the right-wing media have managed to downplay the events of January 6 and once again changed Cruz’s calculus. Consider how he crawled in front of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in January after taking heat from Trump’s base for describing the Jan. 6 riot as a “terrorist attack.” Cruz quickly apologized and called his own comments “sloppy” and “dumb” in an effort to ensure he remains sympathetic to the right-wing populist crowd.
The main thing here is not to charge Cruz. Here we have a politician obsessed with keeping his finger on the pulse of the party, who felt that his own presidential prospects would be enriched by trying to overturn an election. More important than Cruz as a self-aggrandizer is Cruz as a signpost for party direction. Cruz is an accomplished trendsetter — and he has continually shown us that the Republican Party is rapidly sliding into outright disregard for democracy.