Of course, the personas of politicians are always at least partly an act.
Senator Cruz's resume is that of a Michael. He was valedictorian of his high school, graduated from Princeton cum laude, was a champion debater, finished magna cum laude at Harvard law, edited the Harvard Law Review, clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and has argued before the Supreme Court nine times as a state solicitor general while writing dozens of Supreme Court briefs. That such a brilliant, accomplished man so regularly comes off as a petulant, short-sighted phony is inextricable from the demands of the conservative base, and the sorts of personas that it tends to reward.
They say they want "a fighter" but unthinkingly value punches thrown far more than fights won. So Cruz has thrown a lot of uppercuts in the Senate with little to show for it—except, of course, the inflation of his own profile. More like the WWE than the MMA, movement conservatives hand out heavyweight titles based on flash to "fighters" with zero knockouts to their name. This is the GOP faction that thought Sarah Palin was qualified to be vice president and likely to make a McCain White House conservative. That which rouses their enthusiasm harms their causes, as when Palin and later Mitt Romney insulted half the country to appeal to the base.
This "Sonny mindset" has been inculcated by talk radio and Fox News. Too many conservatives are accustomed to thinking of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin as the figures who are sticking it to the liberals and advancing the conservative cause, goals that they think one can pursue without tradeoffs. I'm reminded of a classic exchange between Levin and a female caller to his program:
CALLER: I just wanna say, Obama is a lot smarter than you folks give him credit for. You guys were on a roll, I have to admit, with all those tea parties. Everything was rolling along, the Republicans were gaining momentum. And he managed to change your entire conversational focus. And you let those three hundred thousand people —
HOST: My God. He’s so smart. His own party voted against him on Guantanamo Bay. How stupid was that, Cindy? His own party refused to fund the closing of Guantanamo Bay.
CALLER. Yeah but you know he can just move those people over here anyway. He’s already doing it with the one guy.
HOST: Yeah, sure, he can do whatever he wants. Let me ask you a question. Why do you hate this country?
CALLER: No, I love this country.
HOST: (angrily shouting) I SAID WHY DO YOU HATE MY COUNTRY! WHY DO YOU HATE MY CONSTITUTION? WHY DO YOU HATE MY DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE?
You just said it. He can blow off Congress. He can do whatever he wants, right?
CALLER: Well, he seems to, he just moved (inaudible).
HOST: Answer me this, are you a married woman? Yes or no?
HOST: Well I don’t know why your husband doesn’t put a gun to his temple. Get the hell out of here.
A normal person, conservative, liberal or independent, hears an exchange like that—a man on the radio yelling at a woman about her husband putting a gun to his temple—and thinks, "That's awful. What a jerk. I don't want anything to do with that guy." Whereas a Sonny Corleone conservative thinks, "Mark Levin is The Great One! He showed that liberal! Finally a guy on our side who will go to the mattresses!"