"Traitor to His Class" -- it's not a phrase National Review Online editor Rich Lowry uses pejoratively. In fact, it describes the way pretentious liberals and Ivy Leaguers alike condescendingly appraise him. They despise him, in part, because his intellectual abilities and rhetorical flourish were honed at the very same institutions that Progressive icons like Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama attended. And yet the junior Senator from Texas is by no means a liberal. Nor, for that matter, is he stupid. Indeed, Ted Cruz is many things to many different people, but one thing that cannot be said about him is that he is unintelligent. This, above all, is what frustrates leftists most. How, they must ask, could a man as educated and accomplished as Ted Cruz possibly be a conservative?
The party’s highest-profile Texans, George W. Bush and Rick Perry, tended to match inarticulateness with cowboy swagger and lend themselves to mockery as intellectual lightweights. Bush went to Yale and Harvard Business School, yet no one naturally thinks of him as an Ivy Leaguer. The two Lone Star State governors played into the left’s stereotypes so nicely that if they didn’t exist, Gail Collins would have had to make them up.
Cruz is different — a Princeton and Harvard man who not only matriculated at those fine institutions but excelled at them. Champion debater at Princeton. Magna cum laude graduate at Harvard. Supreme Court clerkship, on the way to Texas solicitor general and dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cruz is from the intellectual elite, but not of it, a tea party conservative whose politics are considered gauche at best at the storied universities where he studied. He is, to borrow the words of the 2009 H.W. Brands biography of FDR, a traitor to his class.
Traditionally, conservatives a la Ted Cruz have been portrayed as blundering idiots -- sometimes well-intentioned and warmhearted, but dimwits nonetheless. Yet this analogy can never stick to Senator Cruz -- a point Lowry emphasizes:
One of the left’s deepest prejudices is that its opponents are stupid, and Cruz tramples on it. Chris Hayes of MSNBC actually says he fears Cruz’s brilliance. So should congressional witnesses. At hearings, Cruz has the prosecutorial instincts of a … Harvard-trained lawyer. Watching Attorney General Eric Holder try to fend off Cruz’s questioning on the administration’s drone policy a few months ago was like seeing a mouse cornered by a very large cat.
Cruz hasn’t played by the Senate rules that freshmen should initially be seen and not heard. In fact, he joined the upper chamber with all the subtlety of a SWAT team knocking down a drug suspect’s front door.
For people who care about such things — almost all of them are senators — this is an unforgivable offense. At another hearing, this one on guns, as Cruz says the highest commitment of senators should be to the Constitution, another senator can be heard muttering that he doesn’t like being lectured. Chairman Pat Leahy (probably the mutterer) eventually cuts him off and informs him he hasn’t been in the Senate very long.
Watching irresponsible public servants squirm on the hot seat under Senator Cruz's inquisitorial glare is indeed a sight to behold. This is why, Lowry argues, even if he doesn’t run for (and win) the presidency, he could still be the upper chamber's unapologetic defender of conservatism for decades to come. Put simply, liberals fear him -- and for good reason. But for too long the left has convinced the public that standing up for conservative values is some sort of psychological disorder -- a sign of ignorance and intellectual laziness. Cruz’s rise to prominence disapproves this dubious proposition. This is why, I suspect, they hate him so much.