The ancient Greek playwrights could have had a good time with Ted Cruz, the one time crown prince of the movement conservatives, who, due to his and their own colossal misjudgments, was in a series of stages turned upon by them, and finally hung out to dry. His first real mistake was believing their stories: That there was a silent and unseen conservative majority waiting for only the right voice to wake it, that the real enemy of all true conservatives was not the leftwing but Republican moderates, and that the road to success and perhaps to the White House lay in exciting this wing by attacking the moderates, which he proceeded to do.

Anointing himself as the only true voice of the Right, he had been in the Senate a matter of months before dragging the party into a government shutdown that turned the country against it, using his hold on some House conservatives to turn them against the House leadership, and tying the party and country in knots. At the same time he had thrown his lot in with the Senate Conservative Fund, which was in a conspicuous breach of traditional courtesy funding a series of primary challenges to incumbents it thought were impure. A furor ensued, but the more his colleagues complained the more he enjoyed himself, using their names in his fundraising letters, claiming their opposition confirmed his own credibility. Cruz, who had run for the Senate planning to run for president less than halfway through his first term, and made his first visit to Iowa a few months after taking office, apparently had not stopped to consider that his conservative base, which Henry Olsen had estimated as around 35 percent of the Republican Party, was not big enough to get him elected as president, or that running for president with much of his party in a slow rage against him was not on its balance a very smart thing.

Typically, Cruz was the first of the field to announce he was running for president, in March, 2015, barely two years after he was sworn in as a senator. He had built a base of admirers in talk radio, the conservative press and a number of think tanks, and doubtless imagined that backing would follow. Picture his shock when it turned out that most of talk radio, Fox News and almost all of the social conservatives were going for a New York liberal who had never held office, broken all of the rules and many Commandments, and funded and voted for both of the Clintons instead.

At the end of a brawl among 17 contenders, Cruz ended up as the last anti-Trump stand-in. He headed an ad hoc coalition of moderates and serious movement conservatives, failing in part because he never learned to talk to people who were outside of his base coalition, and all the people in his own party whom he had attacked, ridden over or pissed off in general refused to come to his aid. Even then he retained the respect of many in and outside of his following for his refusal to give in to Trump, saying only a “servile puppy” would bow to a man who insulted his father and wife. Then, on Sept. 23 the puppy sat up and rolled over, the purist endorsing his party’s despoiler. And what was the cause of his final surrender? The terrible threat of a primary challenge, his weapon of choice against his resisters, was used now to humble himself.

Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”

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