Ted Cruz is in a bit of sticky wicket: His political future is in jeopardy, all because of his continued support of Donald Trump. The Texan senator is among the Republican lawmakers accused of helping foment the angry mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6. He has not apologized. He has not backed down. He’s gotten into Twitter fights with AOC. And now he has some more critics: former staffers, who used to idolize the politician who risked it all to help the man who once called his wife “ugly” and said his father had killed JFK.
Intelligencer reached out to more a half dozen of Cruz’s former employees, discovering that, as one person put it, most of Cruzworld is pretty disgusted.” He has, they say, become unrecognizable, and his actions, particularly since Trump lost re-election in November, has them questioning their longtime idolatry:
They have asked themselves and each other how the candidate who began his political career as an unwavering “constitutional conservBacative” could allow himself to fall in line with Trump’s fraudulent and delusional election challenge; how the man they once viewed as deeply principled has been so willing to behave so cravenly. When Cruz first ran for the Senate in 2011, he boasted about fighting against the Bush administration in court as Texas’s solicitor general to make clear his willingness to stand up to politicians from either party when they violated the Constitution.
“Personally, it’s painful. It sucks,” that former Cruz aide told Intelligencer. “We’ve always backed him because the country deserves principled conservative leadership … I’d say he got unlucky the Capitol was stormed by a mob, but in reality he placed himself at the political mercy of others.”
Back in 2016, Cruz was, like a lot of higher-ups in the GOP, a major critic of Trump, and not just because they were running for the same gig. At the Republican National Convention that summer, he even told the crowd to “vote their conscience.” That, one former staffer postulates, may be the moment Cruz pivoted Trump-wards. Cruz was heckled by the crowd, who interpreted it as a slam of the future 45th president:
That’s when things started to get wobbly,” said the former Cruz aide. At that point, one former aide said, “I think blind ambition started to get the better of him after coming so close in 2016 then having to endure Trumpism’s takeover of the party. Psychologically, after he lost in ’16, he must have watched Trump’s messaging to his core base and concluded that maybe this group of voters he needed were going to be more receptive to a message like that.”
Cruz belatedly endorsed Trump in September of that year and hasn’t looked back. Even as former critics who cozied up to him, such as Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell, Cruz has held firm, spreading misinformation about voter fraud and, two weeks ago, stoking up the mob of supporters whose descent upon the Capitol led to five deaths. But while some staffers mourn that he’s changed, others don’t think he has. As the Intelligencer eloquently put it, “Others suggested that his character hasn’t changed but that it has simply been revealed.”