Imagine a new senator who ran a campaign of “no more business as usual.” No more special interest politics, no more backroom deals — and he won. He came to Washington, and he delivered. He didn’t stay quiet, he spoke passionately for what he believed in, and he made it clear he planned to shake up the status quo.
How would the media react to a senator like that? Nothing but praise for standing his ground, right? Surely editorials lauding his boldness, his vision, his courage would be his reward. He would be held up as an example for others. Finally, a true leader who keeps his promises!
Unless, of course, your name is Ted Cruz, and you have the audacity to defend the Constitution and buck inside the Beltway politics, all while espousing a perfectly reasonable and sane governing philosophy usually absent from partisan political debate. Then it’s a different matter entirely. Then your only duty — according to the media and their parrots inside Congress — is to sit down and shut up.
Is such bald-faced hypocrisy possible? It’s not only possible, it’s happening. Cruz has become a lightning rod, and all because he’s daring to do what he promised during his campaign for the Senate. That simple act of integrity has set him apart from the pack. Most politicians know what to say to get elected but then arrive in Washington with no real spine — or in many cases, no intention of ever doing what they promised.
Not Cruz. He’s proved himself an effective advocate for the founding principles that made our nation great: personal freedom and responsibility, local control and adherence to the law as it is written, not the way some politicians wish it was written.
The Washington establishment opposed him when he was a candidate because he lacked big money or name recognition. But once groups such as the Senate Conservatives Fund helped to shine a spotlight on him, support poured in from grass-roots activists within Texas and all over the country.
Voters expect more of politicians than simply keeping a seat warm in Congress, so Cruz has been quick out of the blocks. For example, when it was time to question former Sen. Chuck Hagel during his confirmation hearing to be secretary of defense, Cruz didn’t shrink from making pointed queries about the nominee’s views on Israel and personal income Hagel has refused to disclose since leaving public service in January 2009.
For that, Cruz was extolled for taking his responsibilities seriously, correct? No, he was labeled an upstart, tagged as a bully — and worse. But why even hold confirmation hearings at all if senators are expected to lob nothing but softballs at nominees who are there merely to be rubber-stamped? Was Hagel expecting, as a former senator himself, to get a free ride? Judging from the furor over Cruz’s line of questioning, it would appear so.
Cruz has even been willing to speak frankly about an issue that has many in his party running scared: immigration. When the “Gang of Eight” senators released their four principles to guide immigration reform, he praised them for vowing to better secure our “porous border” but questioned their proposed path to citizenship.
“To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with rule of law and profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who waited years, if not decades, to come to America legally,” he said. To Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post’s “Right Turn” blog, this amounts to “shooting from the hip.” In fact, Cruz is voicing a serious concern shared by millions of Americans. And now’s the best time to express serious concerns, before a specific piece of legislation based on flawed principles is rushed out for a vote. Yet, Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant who fled oppression, is ludicrously accused in liberal quarters as being anti-immigration. All Americans can be grateful that Cruz doesn’t just sit down and shut up and pretend this isn’t the same cleverly disguised amnesty legislation that has failed in the past.
Cruz has also shown the courage to tackle other difficult issues that many have been content just to talk about. He has been pushing to end corporate welfare, expand workplace freedom and promote school choice. These bold policies frighten Washington special interests but give American working families reason for hope.
“I made promises to the people of Texas,” Cruz has said, “… to lead a concerted and meaningful effort to end the unsustainable spending, deficits and debt that have been propagated, unfortunately, by members of both parties.” Hardly a radical position, and yet the senator has been slammed as an opportunist who doesn’t seem to know his place.
If Cruz has ruffled feathers in Congress, that means he’s doing his job. Voters want Washington to be shaken out of its complacency. The last thing we need is another status quo senator or a congressman who goes along to get along. That’s how we got into the mess we’re in in the first place. Cruz’s honest and common-sense leadership should be commended, not criticized.
-Former Sen. Jim DeMint is the president-elect of The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Politico.