A Welcome Home for Ted Cruz in the Party of John Cornyn

Originally published on the Quorum Report.

Two years ago in a packed hotel ballroom in Houston during the Harris County Republican Party’s Reagan Day fundraising dinner, Sen. John Cornyn stood on the stage and made the case to the party’s faithful that they must do a better job of reaching beyond their usual base if the organization is going to be sustainable. Though his words were not met with enthusiasm from the crowd, Sen. Cornyn appeared quite comfortable in what was quickly becoming his role as the elder statesman of the Republican Party of Texas.

That night, Cornyn underscored the necessity of this state’s governing party to appeal to those who don’t look like him: Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, and others. He said people who have never previously voted Republican could very well be “natural allies” thanks to many of the values they hold dear. But he warned: “If people don’t think that you care, they won’t care what you think.”

That message of inclusiveness fell on many deaf ears in the party, perhaps most notably those of his colleague Sen. Ted Cruz, who would spend the next two years waging a campaign for the White House based largely on the opposite idea: Exclusion of those who do not already agree with him 100 percent. During his speech in Dallas at the Texas GOP’s state convention, Cruz said nothing about party unity.

In fact, Sen. Cruz has never made Republican unity a central theme of his political career except during a brief window before the Indiana primary when a united front against Donald Trump might have given our junior senator a shot at fulfilling his ambition. The moment that slim chance evaporated, it was back to a message of purity, even during a convention with the slogan “Unite to Win.”

Since that evening two years ago in Houston – when Jared Woodfill was still the local chairman in Houston – Woodfill and Cruz have both waged divisive campaigns that fell short.

Woodfill, running for state GOP Chairman, railed about social issues with the rallying cry “Take our Party Back!” Former GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri’s response was “Are you kidding me?” Woodfill’s chief supporter, Steve Hotze, insisted most of the challenger’s campaign be centered around the argument that “Men don’t belong in women’s bathrooms!” and accusations that Chairman Tom Mechler was somehow involved in the “disgusting homosexual agenda.” Mechler, like Cornyn, ran on a message of bringing the party together and expanding its base.

Mechler won and Woodfill, to his credit, subsequently called for unity.

Not so for Cruz.

Toward the end of his campaign, Cruz zeroed in on that same bathroom issue while presumptive nominee Trump and most of the rest of America dismissed it. Cruz is still campaigning on it, though.

“There is no decree clause to the Constitution,” Cruz told Texas GOP delegates as they booed loudly at the mention of the Obama Administration’s guidance on how school districts should protect transgender students from discrimination.

Earlier in the same convention, Sen. Cornyn said he understood that many Texas Republicans are unsatisfied with their likely choice this fall: Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton. “It’s time to look past the disappointment of the primary campaign and unite behind our nominee,” Cornyn said. “We either do it together or not at all.”

Cornyn has united the Texas GOP without Cruz’s help before.

When he stood for reelection in 2014 against seven – yes seven – Tea Party challengers and without the endorsement of Cruz, Cornyn secured his spot as the GOP nominee with about 60 percent of the vote.

“Anyone who calls themselves Conservative or Republican, who doesn’t vote for the nominee of the party in the general election is neither,” Cornyn said at the time. When he was asked whether it matters if the Republican nominee is a “true conservative,” Cornyn replied “And the Democrat is (conservative)?”

Edward R. Murrow, the patron saint of broadcast journalism, had a one-word piece of advice for aspiring journalists: “Steady,” Murrow would say. Even in the face of blistering criticism, that steadiness is how Murrow presented himself to the nation in his legendary showdown with Sen. Joe McCarthy during the communist witch hunt of the 1950s.

There is now much speculation that Sen. Cruz is laying the groundwork to run against Clinton in 2020 if Trump flames out in the general election. If Cruz has that chance to run in the Republican Party, it will be because Cornyn and others like new RPT Chairman Mechler are doing the work it takes every day to keep the party steady.

Copyright May 16, 2016, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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