by Tom Rogan is a contributor to The Guardian, The National Review Online, and The Week.
To start, something we can all agree on — Ted Cruz tends to evoke passionate emotions.
The left hates him because, well, he’s a human textbook in the art of annoying liberals. The right is more divided. Some conservatives dislike Cruz because they view him as an agitator for agitation’s sake.
Some conservatives dislike him because, well, they aren’t him. But for many conservatives, Cruz is the ultimate politician; a conservative gunslinger — no excuses, no prisoners, no retreat — quite literally, the Lone Star State Ranger.
Yet, regardless of how we as individuals feel about Cruz’s politics, for five reasons, he deserves our respect.
1) He’s intelligent
As his liberal Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz, put it, “Cruz was off-the-charts brilliant.”
While the Senator often takes flak for his statements in Congress, at speeches off the Hill, he tends to strike a slightly different figure. Passionate yes, but able to articulate the intricacies of his positions to a mix of audiences. If nothing else, we should celebrate the fact that a man who rose from humble beginnings is now at the intellectual forefront of shaping his party’s future.
2) He puts causes above political gain
Soaring speeches, relentless campaigning, marathon filibusters … No one can accuse Cruz of being a political crony. Let’s face it; he doesn’t seem desperate to win powerful friends. In fact, he’s reveled in torching bridges as much as building them.
Cruz’s relentless passion speaks to something. We might disagree with some (or all) of his opinions, –but we should respect Cruz’s commitment. By the authority of Texas voters, Cruz has been sent to Washington for a reason. He’s fulfilling it. Though he’s controversial at home as well as in DC, so far, the defining judges of Cruz’s ‘service’, Texan voters, remain more favorable in their opinion of him than they are negative. Of course, this may change, but until it does, Cruz can point to a continuing base of popular legitimacy. We should respect that.
3) He’s amusing
No one can accuse the Senator of being boring. His speeches are loaded with humor. And impressively for a politician, Cruz’s jokes include references to both modern social trends and cultural Americana. This isn’t silly, it’s crucially important. Regrettably, many Americans are far more interested in the Kardashians than they are in their own government. That’s not healthy for our democracy.
Yet, Cruz is helping to change this dynamic -– he’s making politics more accessible and more engaging. When he sends syrup to Jon Stewart, he’s connecting with young Americans. When he compares ObamaCare to Dr. Seuss, he’s introducing levity to a DC dominated debate. Certainly, he’s differentiating himself from the callous, mindless oratory of Republicans like Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock.
4) He’s a political turbine
When it comes to Ted Cruz, you never know what you’re going to get. That makes his politics interesting. In turn, Cruz drags people out of disinterest and into the discussion. These days, Cruz is probably better at stirring up the liberal base than the president. For the well-being of our country, this catalytic quality is priceless. The main problem with contemporary American politics isn’t Cruz style intransigence. Instead, it’s the fact that many Americans ignore politics in general. They care enough to complain, but not enough to demand change. Cruz changes that equation. He’s a grenade against apathy.
5) He’s done nothing wrong
Listening to some commentators, you’d think that Cruz is an American Guy Fawkes. He isn’t. Rather, the senator is doing what most ambitious politician do – he’s applying the system to his own advantage.
It’s true, few of his actions could be regarded as bi-partisan in nature. But political service is about more than deference to common authority (as President Obama recently found out with his Syria authorization request in Congress). In the end, Cruz will be considered just as much for what he has prevented, as for what he has established. His is undoubtedly a risky proposition – 2016 Republican primary voters may come to regard Cruz harshly if the GOP loses key seats in the 2014 midterm elections. But Cruz’s record shouldn’t be written for a few more years.
Ultimately, the people of Texas will decide whether or not he deserves a second term. The American people will decide whether he gets the keys to another house.
In our system of government, Ted Cruz owes deference to two things alone – his oath and his office. Yes, many of us would prefer a more consensus oriented politician. Nevertheless, he’s an elected representative of America’s second most populous state. We don’t have to like him, we don’t have to vote for him, but paying heed to his pivotal role in our national political life, Ted Cruz deserves our respect.
Tom Rogan is a contributor to The Guardian, The National Review Online, and The Week.