The GOP establishment is cozying up to Ted Cruz. It's not clear they know why

Many in the GOP elite are on the verge of throwing in with Ted. Here's why that doesn't make much sense

Published March 10, 2016 12:58PM (EST)

Ted Cruz (Credit: CBS News)
Ted Cruz (Credit: CBS News)

Here’s a story that’s been written so many times in the past year or so that it’s approaching dog-bites-man territory.

Donald Trump is gliding his way toward the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, and the plutocrat donors who once believed they controlled the GOP don’t know what to do. So they’re grasping at straws to stop him. And, increasingly, losing touch with why they found him so unpalatable in the first place.

How do you know that stopping Trump for the sake of stopping him is beginning to dictate these GOP moneymen’s thinking? By reading this report from Politico, which says that Sen. Ted Cruz — yes, Ted “everyone I work with hates me” Cruz — is in the process of being anointed as the new savior/anti-Trump:

Republican elites are begrudgingly embracing Ted Cruz—and hanging Marco Rubio out to dry.

Panicked at Donald Trump’s dominance and dismayed by Rubio’s continued inability to do anything about it, some top Republican power brokers are turning to Cruz, putting aside their policy and personal misgivings to back the candidate they now openly label as their best hope to stop Trump’s GOP takeover.

The GOP establishment hating Donald Trump is not news, of course. But it used to be assumed that they considered Cruz (whom they hated long before Trump started talking about making America great again) to be just as bad. Like Trump, he was divisive and incendiary; unlike Trump (who is nothing if not an entertainer), watching Cruz setting the world ablaze wasn’t even fun.

So what happened? What changed? What’s made Trump so unbearable that these self-styled mandarins now find themselves on the verge of striking a faustian bargain with Cruz?

Judging from Politico’s reporting, it’s unclear — both to me and to themselves:

It’s not that Cruz has done anything to endear himself to the GOP elite. He’s still the thorn that, just weeks ago, they reviled so much that many were attempting to talk themselves into accepting Trump, hoping his deal-making style and blue-collar base would be a better bet in November than Cruz’s hardline brand of conservatism should the race come down to those two candidates.

But following two weeks in which Trump waffled in denouncing the Ku Klux Klan, made graphic references on a presidential debate stage and dropped out of the Conservative Political Action Conference, some of the GOP’s leading donors, strategists and party wise men are reconsidering [sic] Trump’s run in Michigan and Mississippi only added to that urgency, with his delegate lead continuing to grow.

A few of the sources in the piece bleat some half-assed rationalizations about how at least with Cruz they know they’re getting a loyal Republican. But that doesn’t carry much water, either. Cruz is certainly a loyal member of the conservative movement; but is he a loyal soldier for the Grand Old Party? I would imagine David Dewhurst — and all the Republicans who supported him — would say the answer is not so much.

The motivation is so flimsy, in fact, that it’s hard not to suspect this hasn’t devolved into (yet another) dick-measuring contest, with wealthy alpha male Donald Trump squaring off against the wealthy alpha males that comprise the GOP elite. If the prize wasn’t a chance to control the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, it would almost be funny. But since that is exactly what this competition is ultimately about — well, it’s not.

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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David Dewhurst Donald Trump Elections 2016 Gop 2016 Politico Ted Cruz