Navarrette: Ted Cruz's coming wild ride
By Ruben Navarrette
Aug. 14, 2012 at 11 p.m.
Get ready for an adventure, Ted Cruz.
Let's jump ahead and assume Cruz becomes the next U.S. senator from Texas. Republicans have won the last eight Senate matchups in the Lone Star State, and Cruz, a 42-year-old graduate of Harvard Law School and former Texas solicitor general, is favored to make it nine.
I've known Cruz for a decade. And I also know that when he steps onto the national stage, beginning in a couple of weeks when he addresses the Republican Convention in Tampa, my friend is in for a wild ride.
As a Hispanic Republican with a high profile, he'll be a target of the liberal media, which will either portray him as incompetent or so hard-core right-wing as to be outside the Latino mainstream. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Miguel Estrada, the stellar Washington lawyer whose nomination to the federal bench in 2001 was derailed by Senate Democrats, were wounded by such accusations.
Such is life when you're a Hispanic Republican with conservative views and a bright future, the kind that strikes fear into the hearts of Democrats and their surrogates.
See: Marco Rubio. Florida's junior senator was a target of Democrats and Univision, the left-leaning Spanish-language television network, before he had even unpacked his boxes and moved into his Senate office.
Democrats simply can't afford to have too many Hispanic Republicans walking around and espousing conservative principles. Latino voters might start getting crazy ideas in their heads, like that there are actually two major parties in this country and they are free to support either one.
Like Rubio, Cruz is a Cuban-American who would be representing a state with a largely Hispanic population. Texas is 38 percent Hispanic, Florida is 22 percent.
Unlike Rubio - who enjoys the support of Cuban-American Republicans in Florida and can use it as a shield against critics - the Hispanics that Cruz would represent in Texas are Mexican and Mexican-Americans who vote Democratic.
And that's a whole different kettle of menudo (Mexican stew). Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are already hardwired to expect they're going to be looked down on by Cuban-Americans. And most of them are furious with the Republican Party for its incompetent and intolerant handling of immigration. Lastly, they're predisposed to think fellow Latinos are going to sell them out and put the interests of others before theirs.
The "Tex-Mex" population will react to anything Cruz says or does with a hair trigger. They're going to be waiting for him to betray them in order to please the Republican hierarchy.
This is the last thing the GOP brass wants from Cruz. They already have enough white elected officials alienating Hispanics. What they could use are a few Hispanic elected officials to smooth out the relationship.
And that's where Cruz can really make a name for himself. He has to be unpredictable. He can't let himself be caricatured as a Hispanic version of Clarence Thomas. Just when his critics have him pegged as not being "Hispanic enough," he needs to say something or do something that shows them that, his politics notwithstanding, he's just as Hispanic as they are.
And sure enough, Cruz is already doing this. During a recent interview on "Fox News Sunday," he told host Chris Wallace that you typically don't see Hispanic panhandlers "because in our community, it would be viewed as shameful to be out on the street begging." And by the way, he added: "Do you know the rate of military enlistment among Hispanics is higher than any demographic in this country?"
Hispanics know these things. They know they're full participants in American society, and that many of them are living the American Dream.
They know they get a bad rap and catch blame for society's ills. They know they work for what they have and answer when their nation calls. And they know they're not the ones bankrupting the country under the weight of government handouts, Wall Street bailouts, and gold-plated public employee pensions.
The fact that Cruz knows it, too - and isn't shy about saying it on a conservative media outlet such as Fox News - should earn him positive marks with fellow Hispanics. It's a good start.
<em>- Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group.</em>