Meet Ted Cruz’s Real Constituents

by Published on
Republican Party of Texas convention in Fort Worth, Tex.
Patrick Michels
Ted Cruz

Unless you have a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag in front of your home, you’ve probably never heard of Toby Marie Walker, president of the Waco Tea Party. But you can bet Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and lots of other top Texas Republicans have her number on speed dial.

A prominent conservative activist since 2009, Walker is part of a constellation of tea party leaders and groups around the state who are the real constituents of Texas Republicans. They have the ears of the politicians, not the business community or newspaper editorial boards or the other hoary “opinion leaders” who wield less influence than ever. They are the enforcers and counselors, the intermediaries between “The Base”—the rump of the GOP that runs this state by selecting candidates in the GOP primary—and the elected officials. They are the agents of radicalization. When people from outside the state marvel at Ted Cruz’s intransigence in the face of collapsing poll numbers and revulsion by his colleagues, just keep in mind that he is toasted as a hero by activists like Walker. And those polls are lies anyway.

“Do you really trust anything the polls have to say?” Walker asked on her radio show recently. “Polls can be so skewed.”

Even if you believe the polls that have found the Republican brand in deep trouble, it doesn’t matter for the moment. People like Walker are controlling the debate in Texas, and it’s her opinion that matters.

It was on Walker’s radio show that Dewhurst first claimed to have seen DPS troopers smelling bottles filled with urine and “bags” of feces at Capitol security checkpoints in July. It is on Walker’s radio show that he rehearses (and often butchers) his new tea party-approved lines. Texas, he said in October, would turn blue “over my dead, cold blood—cold body.”

When Dewhurst—poor Dewhurst—starts babbling about Benghazi and impeaching Obama, as he did in October to the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party, you can be assured that he’s hoping to get in the good graces of Toby Marie Walker, or Dallas-Fort Worth’s Alice Linahan, one of the prime movers behind the bizarre CSCOPE non-troversy. (Linahan, by the way, recently encouraged her Facebook and Twitter fans to “re-educate” me. One of my apparent crimes: writing about an email that Texas Attorney General candidate Barry Smitherman sent to his daughter’s school teacher in which he complained about a tolerance lesson put out by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Smitherman’s wife, Marijane, mentioned the email during a radio program hosted by Linahan. The Southern Poverty Law Center, Smitherman wrote, was unfairly labeling groups like Crusaders For Yahweh, a neo-Nazi organization, as a “hate” group.)

The troubling thing is that the pandering pays off. After his impeachment proclamation in Tarrant County, Dewhurst was roundly ridiculed and practically ran away from a TV camera crew the next day. But he notably picked up an endorsement from the Eagle Forum’s Cathie Adams, who, at the same event in which Dewhurst endorsed impeachment, gave a rambling, paranoid lecture on the Muslim Brotherhood in which she accused both CIA Director John Brennan and hardcore anti-tax veteran Grover Norquist of being crypto-Muslims.

Dewhurst is in the tragicomic phase of his bumbling lurch to the far right (the Houston Chronicle called it “painful to watch”). Ever since his humiliating defeat by Cruz in last year’s U.S. Senate primary, the lite guv has been appearing in front of more small groups of cranky white-haired folks than the bingo caller down at the local nursing home.

“You’re listening,” Walker told him on her show in October. Dewhurst replied that he’d been talking to small conservative clubs for years, but now, he said, “Maybe I’m listening harder.”

To the voices in his head? No, worse: to the voices in other people’s heads.

Dewhurst is easy to pick on because he’s so obviously faking it. But if Texas Republicans seem to have descended into madness, it’s only because they’ve succumbed to an extreme fringe that now owns the party and is driving public policy in this state. There are 26 million Texans who, in theory, are Dewhurst’s and Cruz’s constituents. But in reality, the only ones who matter belong to the tea party.

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is associate editor of the Observer. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest has appeared on Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show and numerous NPR stations. His work has been mentioned by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Time magazine and many other state and national publications. Other than filing voluminous open records requests, Forrest enjoys fishing, kayaking, gardening and beer-league softball. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.

  • channelclemente

    Everyone interested in Cruz should read your piece, and the one from this mornings New Yorker.

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/10/ted-cruz-the-mask-of-sincerity.html

  • Mister_Mean

    The Texas Taliban with Moohla Cruz, Dewherst and Abbot.

  • sanchanim

    Let’s see. So the Newyorker is calling him a lire? Like as in the IRS, NSA, Bengahzi, ACA lie? Oh wait wrong politician.
    Cruz had a town hall and 100,000 people attended. He is well prepared and speaks well, because he is good at it. He is right pointing out the faults of the GOP. The Newyorker pointed this out, but why is that wrong?

    Mr. Wilder seems to be projecting quite a bit.
    From both articles I see a lot of fear mongering and little substance. Agents of radicalization, oh that is one I will have to use! If you want to discuss a specific voting record, or bill which he approved of or apposed, by all means.
    He is only a bully because he asks hard questions. I see nothing wrong with that.

    Also your continual reference to Toby seems like you might be a stalker. She has never heard nor spoken with you at all. People like Paul, Lee, and Cruz are actually gaining in popularity out of frustration on both sides. The fastest growing party in this country is neither. Those who run as Libertarian, and yes even Tea Party backed candidates will more than likely garner more votes than ever.

    • not_Bridget

      When was the Cruz “Town Hall”? I know about one (1) thousand folks from the Houston area came out to see his brief appearance after saner Republicans finally ended the Government shutdown. There are over 2 million Houstonians….

      Ted Cruz is a bully who sabotages the work of saner politicians. What positive thing has he ever done for our country? Or our state?

      • sanchanim

        I don’t remember the specific date, but I had dialed in for the town hall. The 104,000 was from across the US, not just Texas. Houston tends to lean left anyways, although the state overall is right.

        The government shut down was not led by Cruz, it was led by Beohner. Cruz had simply asked they “DC Listen”. Now to that end we can talk political strategy all day long. Now the DNC is asking for what Cruz was asking for, a delay. Yes I know many were asking for a defunding, which I agree with, but none the less that changed to a delay.

        I have never heard Cruz, use foul language, or loose a sense of decorum. I can look at many others in the GOP and DNC and they look like small kids on a playground. Actually Cruz and a freshman Dem senator from VA had a good discussion on the ACA issue during his long speech. Which BTW was not a filibuster since it did not impede the voting process. The vote was scheduled on calendar already. He also made sure he was off the floor on time to allow the vote to go through.

        As far a sabotage, oh please do tell. I have yet to see where his actions have done much of anything to sabotage. I have seen that he has rattled a lot of cages. The Dems are scared because their money is not there as it once was and people are listening to folks like Lee, Cruz, Paul, and others. The GOP is pissed, because their funds are drying up as conservatives are giving to individual races and not to the GOP. The Neo statest’s in the GOP are feeling the pressure, as more conservatives are unhappy with the direction the GOP is taking.

        • MikeCarrick

          100,000 in a state with the nation’s worst record of academic achievement?
          http://www.texasobserver.org/texas-on-the-brink-we-can-do-better/

          Wow. That’s a big turnout of the ill informed.
          Awesome.

          That you think Boehner is in charge of anything is a gutbuster. He’s widely known as the town drunk, and he can’t even get his own measures passed. Now that is sabotage. Sabotage of the right, from the right.

  • ThelmaTaormina

    Seems to me someone is a bit concerned about the true grassroots organizations in this state and country. Mr. Wilder (great name for someone spewing twisted rhetoric) must be worried about these average Texans who use common sense when voting and are not brainwashed by any so-called elites. Those mentioned in this piece are not as you describe, in truth, they are Americans who are trying to protect ALL USA Citizens by protecting the Constitution, not just the US Constitution, but the TEXAS CONSTITUTION. I guess I need to forgive you for your ignorance, and for you listening to the VOICES IN YOUR HEAD!

  • Bryan Blake

    I find it depressing that those honorable American Revolutionaries who committed an overt act of insurrection are now having their image smeared by these low information anarchists. The Tea Party are nothing more than extreme right wing anarchists. They live in a world that was inflated by Koch brothers money and are isolated by their own willful ignorance. They scream “US CONSTITUTION!” But have little or no understanding of who authored the Founding Documents. The Constitution was and is a product of The Age of Enlightenment/Reason. Many many of The Founders were Deist and rejected Christianity. The Tea Party claims we were founded as a christian nation – through the words of Jefferson and others that notion has been explicitly rejected. They have crawled out of their tiny political cocoon. Instead of butterflies, tiny John Birchers 2.0 bugs are swarming!

    • Jed

      the antidote to all this is not belittling the tea party, which just seems to somehow prove to them their own righteousness. those people have always existed, especially here in texas. the answer is for all the regular people to show up.

      • lefty93

        The only reason why the Tea Party has a hold in Texas is because no one votes in this state. If the normal people would get off their asses and vote we could drown out the crazies and take this state back to a more moderate place.

      • Bryan Blake

        Jed: I am not belittling the tea party wannabes. I am simply making observations as to who and what they are and from whence they came. My father’s side of the family were “Holy Rollers” and most are now extreme right wing Christians. Most of the members of the Texas Tea Party and all of the base of the Republican Party here percolate from those religious extremists. Religious righteousness is always the chief enemy of political freedom. The religious extremists ALWAYS demand allegiance to their gods and dogma as the ONLY solution to problems in the shared commons. Look at the Texas State Board of Education and their unrelenting slog to inject the dubious tenants of Christianity into textbooks that are supposed to be used for an objective, rational and Reasonable foundation for the education of our children. All for the purpose of imposing “their willful ignorance” upon Texas students. Knowledge is their “sunshine” and causes their particular brand of willful ignorance and delusion to crumble as dust.

        To sit by in silence and watch the antics of these anarchist is neither polite nor politically correct. As the recent shutdown of the Federal Government and the almost debt default illustrates The Tea Party is nothing more than a formal organization of right wing anarchists. Good people who not speak against extremism are complicit in it!

        The Puppetmasters of the Tea Party clearly recognize that the vote is their greatest enemy in accomplishing control of all levels of government. Why else would they be financing the draconian Voter ID laws?

        Yes, your are right about the vote. The base of the Republican Party is driven by their constantly stoked passions of their “groupthink”. I vote in virtually every election. Perhaps you also do? Saying that we “regular people” should vote does little to offset the “Divine Imperatives” driving the opposition.

        • RealityAlwaysBites

          The religious baggertards are the enemy of anything with a functional brainstem.

      • A. Zigon

        I agree with you Jed, The power of the vote is what is needed. The more they split their own party the stronger the Democrat vote will be.

  • RealityAlwaysBites

    It would take less than a case of ammo to take back the party, yet the traitors in charge are happy to diverge into treason and ruining the country. Those that have imaginary friends in their head are nuts and need a padded room not an office in DC.

  • Adele Roberson

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/dick-cheney-nelson-mandela-terrorist_n_4394071.html

    Do you think there is a more hated Republican in this country? I bet not. And now if she wins in the trumpted Wyoming Senatorial election we might have his befuddled daughter to deal with . I wonder why God is mad at us?

  • Adele Roberson

    The Tea a is just what is inherited from the crazy John Birchers in the sixties. In Houston these lunatics spread their silly words like the second plague. People who never heard of this cult before fell in line like sheep and made ordinary peoples lives a hell if they got close to you. I remember my neighbor getting mixed up in one of their efforts. the Premier of Yugoslavia was coming to Houston to speak somewhere and the Birchers raised hell for a week before he came and almost destroyed downtown Houston. I can’.t even remember what their beef was. They are usually a distracted bunch of morons. But then, unlike now, we had intelligent Republicans who came forward and decimated the Party into non-existence. It was after their man lost the election for President. The grown-up Republicans had had enough of them. We do not have any grown-up people in the Republican Party these days. All there is, is a bunch of cowards and a bunch of crazy people. Unfortunately, a lot of our electorate, especially in Texas, are as crazy as the Tea Party.

    • Tx Grandma

      So Tea Party members are crazy? Like the dimwits that invaded the State Capital with bottles of feces and urine to show their support for Windy Davis and killing babies. My definition of class is different from yours.