"I rise today in an effort to speak for 26 million Texans and for 300 million Americans," Sen. Ted Cruz said to begin his 21-hour, anti-Obamacare filibuster last month. Texas, maybe. But two new polls show that Americans strongly reject Cruz's shutdown and the Republican Party of which the senator is still ostensibly a member.
These new polls, from ABC/ Washington Post and USA Today, are of the toss-'em-on-the-pile genre, offering refinements to what we already knew: Republicans are less popular and less favorably viewed than any party in recent memory.
"Only 20 percent think Republicans are 'interested in doing what’s best for the country,' while 77 percent think they’re 'interested in what’s best for themselves politically," the Post reports. Also: "The party’s image has sunk to an all-time low in Post-ABC surveys … Almost four in 10 Americans have a strongly unfavorable view of the GOP."
When Cruz stood to speak during his filibuster, his target was Obamacare, not President Obama or Democrats. But even on that topic, America rejects his stated opinion. "[O]nly one third of Americans support repealing the law," the Post reports. And: "A sizable bloc of those who oppose the law want it to continue, anyway."
The poll finds that 46 percent support the law, versus 54 percent who oppose it or are unsure of their feelings about it. But that second bloc breaks down into 33 percent who oppose and want repeal, versus 20 percent who oppose the law and want to let the law go ahead.
Shortly after the shutdown began, it became clear that the Republicans were taking an outsized political hit for driving the unpopular effort. Cruz — who'd maintained the public argument that he was merely acting on behalf of the silent majority of Americans in standing in the way of a health care policy that still hasn't yet gone into full effect — privately used his own numbers to argue that America backed the stumbling strategy. Those numbers were only slightly better than the public numbers, mind you — public numbers which then continued to decline. But Cruz recognized that his peers were perhaps a little too smart to take "Americans back this, trust me" without a little verification. He failed to provide it.
When the fight was over, Cruz continued to deny that his effort was unpopular. Why did the shutdown end? Not because it was unpopular; because his colleagues gave up on a winning strategy. "When you've got 10 to 20 Senate Republicans going on television, day after day after day, saying, 'we cannot win, this is a fool’s errand, we will lose, nothing will happen, we will surrender,' and blaming Republicans every step of the way," Cruz told The National Review, "it eliminates the ability to get a positive outcome." That's rhetoric, just like saying America supports his efforts. The reality is that a majority of the Senate — Democrats and some Republicans — flatly refused to budge on Obamacare, as it was obvious from the outset that they would.
But Cruz keeps up the act (or the delusion or whatever it is) even as his party suffers the recriminations. A prominent judge in Cruz's home state of Texas announced that he was switching parties. "I cannot be a member of a party," Judge Carlo Key said, "that is proud to ruin the financial lives of hundreds of thousands of federal employees in a vain attempt to repeal a law which provides healthcare to millions of Americans across the country."
More significantly, Republican Rep. Tim Griffin of Arkansas announced that he would not seek re-election on Monday. In that USA Today poll, only 4 percent of respondents thought throwing out every member of Congress would be bad. But the numbers were worse for the GOP: "By nine points, Americans who live in districts they say are represented by a Republican say the deadlock has made them less likely to vote for the incumbent. Those who say they are represented by a Democrat are by one point more likely to support him or her."
While a Democratic takeover of the House is still highly unlikely, that defection is the sort of thing that could make a switch possible, as Cook Political Report's Charlie Cook points out. Another thing that could make the path easier for Democrats, per Cook? For "a civil war to break out between the various factions of the Republican Party." Break out? It's here, as we charted last week. It's here when Jeb Bush calls for Cruz and Tea Partiers to have "little bit of self-restraint" or when the head of the Chamber of Commerce agrees that Cruz could maybe work on his ability to "sit down and shut up."
There's no sign Cruz is going to back off his rebellion. For him, the fight was never about America. It was loosely about Texas — where Cruz is still embraced — and primarily about conservative primary voters, who adore Cruz. When former House Majority Leader Tom Delay said last week that "out here in the real world" people "think Ted Cruz is a hero," Delay was doing the same thing that Cruz has done from the start: redefining the real world, the real America to describe those who share their conservative world view. When you do that, no number of polls showing that America disagrees are likely to change your mind.
"Americans are fed up with our elected officials not listening," Cruz said at one point during his filibuster, echoing his endorsed hashtag for the event, #MakeDCListen. That statement could have also used the hashtag #irony.