- - Tuesday, September 24, 2013

With Republican friends like these, Ted Cruz needs no Democratic enemies. Once word leaked that the maverick Republican senator from Texas would appear on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace says his email inbox bulged with “unsolicited research and questions” to use against him. The unsolicited material came not from Democrats, but from Republican elites. “I will tell you I have never in my time in Washington seen a party so upset with one of its own members,” Mr. Wallace says.

Opposition research is always vicious, used to advance one candidate in primary and general election campaigns by cutting another candidate low. It’s highly unusual, however, in an intramural skirmish, where everyone is supposed to be on the same side and agree on the goal. Everyone wants to kill Obamacare. Mr. Cruz says using the leverage of shutting down the government is the only way to dispatch Obamacare to the big sleep. He’ll even use a filibuster to keep Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from restoring Obamacare funding in the continuing resolution passed by the House. “Fund the government,” said Mr. Cruz, “but don’t fund Obamacare because it’s hurting the American people. It’s not working . It should be an easy decision for Senate Republicans to stand united and to support House Republicans.”

Other Republicans say the Cruz plan is suicide. Karl Rove, the Republican strategist who helped elect George W. Bush, is no fan of the shutdown. Mr. Wallace asked Mr. Rove to explain the anger toward Mr. Cruz, and he said it was because Mr. Cruz, together with Sen. Mike Lee, devised the strategy without consulting the Republican leadership. Failing to kiss the ring has been the most unpardonable of sins, and it’s a sin Mr. Cruz frequently commits, though it’s not a sin as rare as it once was.

The elites have snubbed Ted Cruz since he walloped Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the 2012 U.S. Senate primary. Mr. Cruz inspired Tea Party conservatives to bypass Mr. Dewhurst, whom party elders had anointed to take the Senate seat vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. Since Mr. Cruz had only been the solicitor general of Texas, he was told to wait his turn.

Republican elders often care more about protocol than ideas, and they’ve made no secret of their disdain for Tea Party conservatives, whom they call “wacko birds.” Country club Republicans abhor conflict, and would often rather lose than damage their reputation for being nice. When Democrats tell them they’re maybe not as bad as everybody thinks, they take it as a compliment. The Senate is a stronghold of nice Republicans, which is why the nation faces $16.7 trillion in debt.

Mr. Cruz has attracted the eye of the Great Mentioner, who christens prospective presidential candidates, for attention in 2016, and this makes him a target. It further gives him coveted attention as a conservative eager to stand his ground on principle. “There are lots of folks in Washington who choose to throw rocks,” says Mr. Cruz, “and I’m not going to reciprocate.” That’s a good thing for his party, because throwing rocks plays neatly into the schemes of President Obama and the Democrats.