I watched some of Ted Cruz's faux-buster the other night and found myself going through a strange process. Instead of cheering him on like I thought I would, I was slowly turned away from what he was talking about the more I listened to him. We have reached a point as a Republican Party that this is what we are ... a party that would rather talk about the Federalist Papers than win elections. We have become a party of Ted Cruz and Mark Levin, intellectuals who have nowhere to channel their intellect. This is a party that now considers people like John Boozman and Richard Burr outcasts. This is a party that would rather burn the entire Congress to the ground before giving an inch on their "first principles."
The problem with Ted Cruz's Republican Party is that it is without solutions. It is full of long winded orations but not on substance. In short, I agree with Jonah Goldberg that Cruz is nothing more than a Republican Barack Obama. Obama was able to take six years worth of pent up anti-Bush rage and turn it into a sunny progressive dream under the guise of Hope and Change. Cruz, a Princeton and Harvard graduate, has similarly taken the tea party mantras of free markets and anti-Obama rhetoric and shined them up into an intellectual argument of freedom versus socialism. Yet as with Obama, there is a certain vapidness in Cruz. He has the ability to point an army (led by Levin and Erick Erickson) and intimidate fellow Republicans and scream about everything Obama has ever done ... but what else is there? All politicians are by nature ambitious, but there is something about Cruz's particular thirst for power that is unsettling. In the way we like to wave "Obama isn't much different than Bush" at liberals for a lot of Obama's policies, I have a feeling the left will be doing it to us if Cruz is election president some day.
But Chris, your a tea partier, what about Rand Paul and his filibuster? What's the difference? I'm glad you asked. Paul's filibuster was partly about embarrassing Obama for sure, but it was also about educating and rallying the American people against something that we already aren't entirely comfortable with. Paul's filibuster as about injecting civil liberties not only into the forefront of national discourse, but also into Republican politics. As an actual senator, Paul actually has forged relationships across the aisle (Gillibrand, Wyden and Leahy). Cruz has not, nor is he interested. Cruz's filibuster seemed more like a 21-hour manifestation of conservative and tea party anger at Barack Obama and everything he stands for. I won't call it a temper-tantrum, because those are generally spontaneous. Ted Cruz represents all the fury and frustration of Republicans for the last five years. Anger at the party leadership, anger at Obama, and anger at Washington DC in general. The tea party was born in two parts ... one was a reaction against Obama and Obamacare, the other was a reaction against George W. Bush and the party establishment in DC. Ted Cruz is a walking manifestation of that anger. It is what fuels him and sustains him. Unlike Obama, Cruz has not figured out a way to channel this into a positive message to uplift and bring new voters to the party.
I refuse to allow that to be what our party is. Cruz makes us feel good because he sticks up for us and shoves in back in the left's face. But if we wish to govern this country again, to win back the trust that we have lost (and states like New Mexico, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida) we have to be more than that. Better than that. To a point, I like Ted Cruz. But combine all the anger and fury with the seemingly desperate need to prove that the founding fathers would have agreed with us; we have lost focus. That loss of focus would be calcified in the party if Cruz takes it over.
Can anyone tell us exactly what Cruz is for? His rhetoric is muddled and confusing. Daniel McCarthy puts it well:
A Ted Cruz Republican—a Republican’s Republican—not only has no answers to the decline of the American middle class and the extraordinary ineptitude of U.S. global hegemony but refuses even to address the questions. Instead, we get outmoded cliches about socialism and free markets—when in fact what we’re looking at are alternative forms of mixed economy—and jingoism in foreign policy, if occasionally jingoism that opposes wars led by Democrats. These positions only distract from, or indeed exacerbate, the problems of our political economy and global strategy.
Peter Sunderman at Reason has pointed out that Cruz took a stand that would never work and made people believe it would.
This week, Cruz rose up. He spoke for 21 hours—the fourth longest filibuster-like Senate speech on record. It was an impressive physical feat. And when Cruz engaged questions from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Il.), an Obamacare supporter, it created a space for some of the most interesting congressional floor debate about the health care law since the law was passed.
But there was an odd sort of irony to the way the speech attacked other Republicans for casting symbolic votes against the law, and for, well, giving fiery speeches against the law that inevitably left it in place. And there was more than a bit of disconnect between Cruz’s repeated exhortations to “make D.C. listen” and the fact that they came in the midst of a 21-hour talkathon.
Cruz wasn’t listening. He was talking. And to a great extent, that’s what this whole shutdown saga has been about—not defunding the law, but talking about defunding the law.
It occurred to me that Cruz had been given an interesting chance to really make a difference in the party. Sen. Jerry Moran took over recruitment for Senate Republicans and named both Rob Portman and Cruz as the outreach deputies - Portman for the establishment and Cruz for the grassroots. The real work needed in defeating Obamacare isn't yelling and screaming on the Senate floor, but working on finding Republican candidates that can be embraced by everyone to win back the Senate and set the stage for a presidential victory in 2016. And yes, those candidates are out there. I'm thinking of people in the form of Tim Scott of South Carolina or Marco Rubio as a model of a candidate that can win. In 2010 and 2012, we saw the ying and yang of GOP infighting. For Cruz and his followers, educating the public and the party has been replaced by attack and intimidation.
Its one thing when someone like Peter King complains about Cruz, its another when its someone as mild-mannered as John Boozman. Boozman has voted against Obamacare at every step and defeated a Democrat incumbent on this very issue. Yet for Cruz, its not enough. While attempting to turn tea party rhetoric some kind of political intellectualism, Cruz has actually dumbed the party down. From the beginning, his scheme was never going going to work. Basic math tells us this is a fact. Instead of doing the hard work of changing the hearts and minds of fellow senators and the public at large (like Rand Paul did), Cruz simply upped the partisan temperature and unleashed an army to shame and attack fellow Republicans, who most have voted against Obamacare at every stage but understand the madness of following this through to a government shutdown. Cruz's weird intellectual kamikaze conservatism will be a complete disaster for the party. Cruz feels safe because he doesn't have to run again for five years, and when he does its a party quite friendly to him.
We need to figure out an actual agenda to run on. Ted Cruz is setting back our need to find peace within the party, a way for the Ayottes and Hellers to work together with the Pauls and Cruzs. Cruz and Portman's roles in the RSCC should have been a way to do that. To be honest, there isn't that much space between the so-called establishment and the conservatives (at least some). For us to finally get back together as a party and move forward in rebuilding confidence, we need to stop this Cruzism. We need be for things, and not just in concept. But we can't do that when a Texas senator is hi-jacking the Senate with faux-intellectual arguments that don't matter because the numbers are against us. We can quote Mason and Burke and Jefferson, but we can't do basic math.
Being against Obama isn't the way to win campaigns. 2012 proved that. We need to be better, and sadly, as it is today Ted Cruz will not get us there. He gives us a lot of satisfaction, but deep down we all know his way will make the GOP a minority party left to do nothing but filibuster in the Senate against a majority who will always out-number us.