How to sell out and still be unpopular: An ode to Ted Cruz

Alyssa Fernandez

Sitting five rows to the left of the stage during One on One With Ted Cruz, I left knowing two things. One, that Ted Cruz is voting for Trump. And two, he can’t tell you why.

As soon as the senator entered the stage, his presence was suffocatingly Ted Cruz. His infamous ostrich boots, ill-fitting pants and indulgent demeanor felt more like a caricature than a real person — especially when you contrasted him to moderator Evan Smith and how he clung to his seat during the duration of the panel while Cruz lounged and let his body overwhelm the black leather chair.

But it was effective, and he almost immediately hijacked the panel with his evasive language as Smith pressed for an definitive answer from Cruz as to why he endorsed Trump. While Smith and the audience tried to make sense of Cruz’s reasoning for the endorsement, I could only think of Felito. 

In 1983, there was no Ted Cruz, only Felito. He was born Rafael Edward Cruz and proudly named after his Cuban refugee father. Felito is a nickname derived from Rafael, where amongst Spanish speakers, it’s common to affectionately give someone a diminutive of their name.

However, his classmates were clever enough to see that Felito rhymes with famous chip brands such as Tostitos, Cheetos, and my personal favorite, Doritos. The self-described “unpopular nerd” then went to his mother when he was 13 years old and she suggested he go by Ted. A name change wasn’t enough to transform the Texas senator into a cool kid. Then came his revelation. “Okay, well, what is it that the popular kids do?” Cruz states. “I will consciously emulate that.”

By the time he reached high school, he became popular.

Beyond his outrageous character, beyond his political beliefs, Ted Cruz is a carefully constructed concept that was borne out of a compromise, out of an effort to fit in with the rest of the crowd. With this in mind, it makes sense that the senator came prepared to present himself as unapologetically Ted Cruz as possible during his Texas Tribune Fest panel. Not as a statement but as a promise to his brand-loyal voters that the endorsement was not a compromise, that he is still the renegade conservative that fights against the mainstream GOP.  

Unfortunately, his supporters aren’t buying it. Even Cruz’s former friend Glenn Beck has apologized to his viewers for supporting Cruz in the first place.

In many ways, the origin story of Ted Cruz parallels his current political tale as the underdog who beat the popular kids at their own game. What is left out of this narrative is that he never beat the popular kids; in fact, he wasn’t competing against them in the first place. The senator takes advantage of his two defining traits, speaking well and a tendency to conform, then marries them so that he can eloquently transition from one set of beliefs into another without much notice. 

The auditorium echoed with boos as Cruz continued to evade his true intentions for endorsing Trump. In the midst of the jeers, I finally made sense of his presence. Imitating the cool kids can’t erase the fact that Cruz is the most unpopular man in Congress. Even though Conservatism embraced Ted, it has no patience for Felito the Dorito.

Fernandez is a rhetoric and writing and Spanish senior from Allen. She is a senior columnist.