From TPM Cafe’s “How Bush-Appointed Ivy Leaguer Ted Cruz Became A Tea Party Darling,” by Vanessa Williamson, co-author, with Theda Skocpol, of “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism“:
Ted Cruz, who has become one of the Tea Party’s most prominent voices, has officially announced his bid for president. But how is it that a graduate of Princeton and Harvard, a Bush appointee, can pass muster as the standard-bearer for a movement that is supposed to represent anti-elitist, anti-establishment, “real America”?
To understand Cruz’s role in 2016, one must recognize that the Tea Party in Washington today is a not an insurgency from below. It is a realignment within the Republican establishment that has committed the party to a position of extreme non-compromise. As Megyn Kelly pointed out yesterday, Ted Cruz has put himself at the vanguard of that strategy. The willingness to naysay, more than any policy position or connection to the conservative grassroots, is what distinguishes him from other Republican presidential hopefuls.
Let’s remember: The Tea Party, more than an organization or even a movement, was a political moment. In early 2009, the person and the policy proposals of President Barack Obama galvanized grassroots conservatives. But, after the exceptionally unpopular President Bush left office, the Republican brand was toxic and the party leadership was in disarray. Encouraged by conservative media, rank-and-file Republicans built ad hoc local “Tea Party” groups to oppose the new president’s agenda. There was plenty of room at the top for any Republican who could seize the “Tea Party” momentum.
At the national level, those who profited were rarely actual newcomers. Instead, longtime conservative insiders like Dick Armey and Jim DeMint became “Tea Party” leaders. Although the adoption of the Tea Party name and symbolism gave a sense of novelty to this intra-party realignment, there is nothing new about the rightmost wing of the Republican Party except its ever-increasing authority.
Today, we are reaping the candidates the Tea Party has sown. One of these is Ted Cruz, whose 2012 campaign received support from several major players in the Tea Party field, including Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund and Dick Armey’s Freedom Works, as well as other longtime funders of the far right, like the Club for Growth. These players aren’t new, but their degree of power is; the Republican Party has been growing more conservative for decades, and the Tea Party was only the latest step in that direction.
For the rest of Williamson’s TPM Cafe post, click here.