Last Friday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor to accuse Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of lying to him and other Senate Republicans when McConnell denied that he had made a deal over the Export-Import Bank in order to secure the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I cannot recall such blunt language being directed at a Senate Majority Leader by a member of the Senate majority before. Cruz went on to recite what the Republicans have done since gaining control of the Senate and increasing their majority in the House: they passed a trillion dollar “cromnibus” spending bill, they funded Obamacare, they funded President Obama’s executive amnesty of illegal immigrants, and they approved the nomination of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General. Cruz then said that this was no different than the Senate would have acted if Harry Reid had still been Senate Majority Leader. Said Cruz: “There is a profound disappointment among the American people because we keep winning elections and then we keep getting party leaders who don’t do anything they promise.” And Cruz offered a reason for why this is happening: the new Senate majority, like the old Senate majority, “listens to one and only one voice. That is the voice of the Washington cartel, of the lobbyists on K Street, of Big Money and the Big Corporations.” In publicly taking on the Republican leadership, Cruz is betting that there is a market for populist appeals among the voters.
At this point, it seems like a good bet. Bernie Sanders is gaining enough attention that National Review felt compelled to smear him as a national socialist. A new poll shows that Donald Trump is leading Jeb Bush by a 2 to 1 margin among likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, even after the media and most of the other Republicans running for president tried to bury him after Trump made comments widely seen as critical of John McCain’s record during the Vietnam War. It appears that voters are in fact interested in what Trump has to say, particularly on immigration. Both Sanders and Trump are also opponents of the Trans Pacific Partnership, an item not included on Cruz’s list of Republican accomplishments, but one that very much belongs there. So clear was the voice of K Street on Obama’s trade deal with Asia that John Boehner removed from the House leadership any congressional Republican who had voted against giving Obama “trade promotion authority” for his trade deal with Asia.
None of this is welcome news to the people who currently write the big checks that fund our political parties. A friend of mine recently mentioned to just such a big donor that Trump didn’t have to depend on people like her. She replied that that was precisely what made him so frightening. Of course, what frightens this donor is exactly what other voters are now finding so appealing.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.