Ted Cruz and the toothless Tea Party

Published 9:46 am Thursday, April 28, 2016

In August of 2014, I wrote my monthly column “Speaking from Experience” about the apparent downfall of the Tea Party Republicans. My premise was that with so many incumbent U.S. Representatives and Senators being challenged in the 2014 primary season by rabidly conservative Tea Party candidates, only two Republican incumbents were defeated in the primaries. They were U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Majority Leader at the time, and 90-year old Ralph Hall (R-TX).

So far this primary season, not a single incumbent Republican Congressman or Senator has lost to a Tea Party challenger, or any other challenger for that matter. So much for “throw the bums out” politics!

While Republican front-runner Donald Trump and his ardent followers like to talk about throwing the Republican establishment out of power, the Tea Party is equally ardent about replacing “professional politicians” with amateur politicians at the Congressional level.

Speaking of amateur politicians, the leader of the national Republican Tea Party movement is none other than U.S. Rep. Ted Cruz of Texas, the presidential candidate that is keeping Donald Trump up at night, and actually keeping Trump up in the polls.

Consequently, the Republicans are faced with one candidate (Trump) who wants to fight the Republican Establishment and another (Cruz) who, as leader of the Tea Party, wants to throw moderate Republicans out of office.

Perhaps candidate Cruz spent so much time on the presidential campaign trail he has neglected the very movement he has been trying to lead for nearly four years. Or perhaps, and more likely, Cruz is well aware that his Tea Party movement has lost its teeth and it can only gum the more moderate Republicans instead of chewing them up!

However, there is always the Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. This is an organized and uncompromising group of 43 Tea Party Congressmen whose sole purpose is to challenge the Republican Congressional Leadership at every turn.

Here is what we are left with as we approach the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. First, Donald Trump now appears within reach of the 1,237 delegates he needs for the Presidential nomination. If he accomplishes this, he will have beaten back the Republican Establishment. Then there is Sen. Ted Cruz. He is but one man leading 43 supporters from the Freedom Caucus. It’s like Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn, with Donald Trump as Crazy Horse. Literally!

Either way, the Tea Party movement seems to be adrift, and should Raphael Edward Cruz (yeah, that’s his real name) fail to win the Republican presidential race and Donald John Trump (yeah, that’s his real name) prevails in Cleveland in July, the biggest loser will be the Tea Party, with the Republican Establishment coming in a close second.


A native of Niles, Jack Strayer moved back home in 2009 after living and working in Washington DC since 1976. Strayer has served as a congressional staffer, state legislative press secretary, federal registered lobbyist and Vice President of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He is a nationally recognized expert on federal health policy reform and led the fight for the enactment of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).