HOOKSETT, N.H. — The Bernie fan who found himself at an event for Sen. Ted Cruz yesterday didn't advertise his political affiliation.
He was a cheese purveyor, and said he was supposed to have a meeting with the chef at Robie's Country Store, a market and perennial campaign stop in this small town between Concord and Manchester. The chef told him to sit tight.
Instead, he had to stand in the back of the room as Cruz fans waiting in the rain outside the miniscule building shook their fists at late-arriving members of the media.
The cheese purveyor had been to a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders Tuesday night. The crowd was "really passionate," he says.
"Passionate" also would be a good description of some of the hardline conservatives who came out to support Cruz here and those who lofted him to victory in Iowa over Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio. Conservatives who would abolish the IRS, the Department of Education, and Obamacare (naturally).
It was only after the cheese purveyor had finally called it quits, inching quietly out the back door, that Cruz paid homage to his colleague across the aisle.
"In many ways I agree with Bernie in diagnosing the problem," Cruz said in response to a question from a struggling small-business owner: "Career politicians" from both parties getting in the way of the American people, who were forced to endure a "corrupt government."
Of course, Cruz had different ideas than Sanders about how to help the "little people."
A different kind of revolution
For the moment, Cruz is the man to beat in the Republican Party.
After a brief period of chastened quiet, Trump was back at it, ranting about Cruz the nogoodnik on Twitter, saying the senator had "illegally stolen" the vote in Iowa with misleading mailings to caucus-goers and his insinuation that Ben Carson was dropping out of the nomination contest.
Trump has reason to fear Cruz, in the battle for the anti-establishment vote in this election. If Trump is a rabble rouser, Cruz is a revolutionary against traditional conservatism.
His politics, like Sanders', are appealing in their directness. They address the problem head on, if from entirely different directions.
Sanders wants to break up the banks and establish single-payer health care. Cruz says, don't like the IRS? Get rid of it. Department of Education? Shut its doors. Foreign policy? Carpet bomb.
Cruz has a consistency of ideology that emanates strength — the opposite of Rubio's gymnastics on amnesty for immigrants here illegally and Trump's policies of reaction. It does not depend on others. And it attests to a purity of spirit that appeals to the disaffected.
At the general store yesterday, Cruz gave his spiel on not caring that the D.C. crowd didn't like him — Washington values don't appeal to him.
"No deals!" shouted a supporter.
How far will he go?
The question remains: Will Cruz's crusade work in secular New Hampshire, not to mention a general election. Cruz likes to position himself as the inheritor of Reaganism and that earlier conservative revolution, claiming that it was the failures of Jimmy Carter that paved the way for the Gipper. Similarly, he says, the overreaches of the Obama presidency will pave the way for "Morning in America" again.
Of course, Reagan was for amnesty and happened to raise taxes. He started out as a Democrat. And Obama is not losing office, but leaving it.
The country store where Cruz spoke was packed with mostly-adoring fans — and political paraphernalia, from local to national.
Cruz posters were added for the day at least. There were plenty of Reagan banners on the wall, successful and triumphant.
But not all revolutions end that way. Sometimes the revolutionary doesn't win, and sometimes such efforts take a wrong turn. After all, there were Goldwater posters on the wall, too.
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