The Republican Party has been having an identity crisis as of late, with commentators from Jonah Goldberg to our own Erick Erickson wondering how to reconcile the nominally conservative character of the GOP with the newfound doctrine of Trumpism, with all its attendant nationalism, protectionism and pugilism. It’s a serious question, really—one that has given us the crazy specter of evangelicals becoming excuse makers for Clintonesque moral conduct, while former deficit hawks turn apologist for endless debt. Exactly where does an ideological conservative fit in this hall of funhouse mirrors?
Thankfully, the situation doesn’t appear as dire as all that, if this story from the Washington Times is a bellweather:
Sen. Ted Cruz’s stock is rising among members of President Trump’s base who feel double-crossed after the president offered amnesty to illegals in the immigration debate. Some who opposed Mr. Cruz in his 2016 run for the White House are even clamoring for the Texas Republican to mount a primary challenge to Mr. Trump in 2020.
The newfound esteem for Mr. Cruz, whom Mr. Trump dubbed “Lyin’ Ted” when they battled for the 2016 Republican nomination, is coming from people who were die-hard supporters of the president.
“Ted Cruz has kept his word to the American citizens, and we are watching this very, very carefully,” said Sue Payne, a conservative activist in Washington’s Maryland suburbs who in 2016 championed Mr. Trump and reviled Mr. Cruz. “I’m getting very sick of Donald Trump right now. He’s turning his back on the people who put him in office.”
With all due respect to Ms. Payne, I’m baffled at how any truly conservative activist could have reviled Ted Cruz, who was easily the most conservative candidate in the 2016 GOP primary—and probably the only intellectual conservative in the race. By that standard, she should never have championed Donald Trump, who as far as I can tell isn’t ideological at all. But Trump was the first to raise questions about our immigration system that others dared not touch in the beginning, and put front and center a subject that Democrats and their allies in the media had declared off limits. That stance attracted a lot of support, and ultimately paved Trump’s road to victory—which is why supporters like Ms. Payne are hacked at the president’s newfound flexibility on amnesty for illegals:
[T]he biggest double-cross was the offer of an immigration deal with a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers who came illegally to the U.S. as minors.
Mr. Cruz distinguished himself on that front last week by casting the only vote against opening the Senate immigration debate in which all three competing proposals included amnesty for Dreamers.
William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, accused Mr. Trump of “dereliction of duty” by abandoning the get-tough policies that put him in the White House.
“This betrayal destroys his credibility and opens up a huge window of opportunity for Sen. Cruz or another GOP presidential primary challenger in 2020,” said Mr. Gheen, whose group advocates zero tolerance for illegals.
Cruz, for his part, hasn’t ruled out another run in 2020, but says he’s focusing on his own re-election bid and staying on task for the people of Texas. I’m sure he also knows that a primary bid against an incumbent would be a monumental task, especially if the economy keeps roaring along as the GOP tax cuts really start to take hold. Trump, however, should be very careful that he doesn’t forget the cardinal rule he learned from show business: Never forget your audience. They were the ones who put him in the White House, and they are the ones with the power to tell him, “You‘re FIRED!” And they’re not likely to forgive a flip-flop on their numero-uno issue.
Meanwhile, in a town hall in another part of the country...
Yes, that’s Nancy Pelosi, the Queen of Self-Awareness, getting heckled after pilfering a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. to lecture her audience on the evils of rich people being so rich while others are stuck in lives of poverty, drudgery and having to shop the closeout rack at Neiman Marcus. After such a display of chutzpah, it was inevitable that someone would ask, “How much are you worth, Nancy?”
”We’re not talking about that!” she snapped in reply.
With repartee like that, I’m surprised she didn’t come on stage with a bag over her head billed as the Unknown Congresswoman. It would have been fun to see her get gonged before the set was over.