Still Cruzing

Let’s be clear about this: what Ted Cruz is doing — now going on it’s 20th hour — is not a filibuster. Under the rules of the Senate, the budget will come up for a vote this afternoon, the Democrats will almost certainly strip the defund language from the bill and send it back the House. I suspect that the Republicans will eventually find a face-saving way to give in: delay parts of the bill and not shut the government down. Polls are showing that shutting down the government is unpopular and the Republicans can read polls, even “skewed” ones. There’s also that defunding the program won’t stop the worst aspects of it. I’m hoping the core of the deal will be a delay or repeal of the employer mandate, but we’ll see.

All that having been said and despite my increasing feeling that Ted Cruz’s speech is more about self-promotion than anything substantive, I do have to tip my hat to the speech. I was sort of on the fence about that until I read Nick Gillespie this morning:

Make no mistake about it: the on-going “extended speech” by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has absolutely nothing to do with defunding the Affordable Care Act—or even delaying it for one goddamn day.

Cruz and his fellow Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) are the best-known of the gaggle of legislators that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) denounced as “wacko birds” earlier this year. “It’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone,” sputtered McCain in the wake of Paul’s immensely popular and influential filibuster, which called much-needed attention to the Obama administration’s glib attitude toward civil liberties and executive branch overreach.

There’s every reason to believe that the future belongs to the wacko birds and their general, transpartisan message that government is too big and too powerful.
The wacko bird caucus overlaps pretty well with the Tea Party. Besides Cruz and Paul, it includes such characters as Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY). Despite meaningful differences among them, they all support cutting federal spending and taxes, and reducing regulations on business and other economic activities. Unlike many members of the GOP, they are critical of the national surveillance state and, at least in the cases of Paul and Amash, are principled non-interventionists who are quick to question the Pentagon budget.

But Cruz and Paul are speaking to significantly different audiences, despite being wacko birds of a feather.

I’ll avoid extensive quoting and send you to Nick’s excellent analysis. Rand is, of course, a libertarian hero — trying to broaden the appeal of the Republican Party, pushing on issues like civil liberties, the War on Drugs and culture liberalism. Cruz, however, appeals to the more traditional Republicans with his button-down looks and emphasis on cultural conservatism. They’re very different in many ways, but they end up in the same place: opposing the expansion of government power.

Is it possible that these two are leading the wings of a rebuilt Republican Party, with one foot in libertarianism and one foot in conservatism and a steady push-back against government power? Is it possible that while they themselves are a bit on the edge, they can be the vanguard of a more mainstream limited government movement? I doubt either could be elected President (or should be) but could they hold the toes of a more mainstream Mitch Daniels or Marco Rubio or Chris Christie to the fire?

God, I hope so.

So while I’m not overly fond of Cruz and recognize this stunt for what it is, I’m also encouraged by it. As I said during the Wendy Davis thing:

In the end, despite the extremely boring parliamentary debate that pushed SB5 past midnight, I found last night kind of riveting. Not because I am particularly sympathetic to the protesters, but because I am sympathetic to anyone pushing back on government. I want people protesting, calling legislators and getting involved because so many of us have fallen asleep at the switch. Our Republic only functions if we hold our leaders responsible for the decisions that they make and the laws that they pass.

So my challenge to those who participated last night, even it was just a “StandWithWendy” hashtag is this: are you willing to keep this up? Are you willing to push back on NSA abuses, even when it is the eeevil libertarians raising awareness? Are you willing to protest the IRS targeting groups based on their politics, even when it’s groups you don’t like? In short, are you going to stay involved when it’s not your pet issue? When it doesn’t involve aborting fetuses?

Because if you’re not willing to stay involved; if you’re going to bash the Tea Party when they do something like this; if you’re going to decry the filibuster when Rand Paul uses it, then you are not a participant, a protester, a citizen, a revolutionary, a patriot or someone who “stands” with anything.

You’re just a partisan.

Unfortunately, but utterly predictably, many of those who “stood with Wendy” are now bashing Ted. That’s short-sighted. After the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, people complained that Congress couldn’t be bothered to debate them. Shouldn’t we be grateful that the Senate is at least semi-debating one of the most sweeping laws in American history? Ted Cruz is drawing attention to what he believes (and I believe) is a bad law. Like Wendy Davis, he has no hope of stopping that law. But the truth is where it needs to be, whatever you make of his motivations.

And for that, at least, I applaud him.

Comments are closed.

  1. Mook

    So while I’m not overly fond of Cruz

    Sorry to quibble, but seriously, what’s not to love about Sen. Ted Cruz? He is fucking awesome in every respect. He repeatedly calls out Dingy Harry Reid, he smacked down Dick Durbin in impromptu debate, and his dad is a rock star.

    Rubio has burned bridges in a deep way with the Republican conservative base with his arrogant stand on amnesty. In a more perfect world, Cruz, not Rubio, would be the future of the Republican party.

    By the way, html tools are not showing anymore. I had to manually type to blockquote

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  2. Hal_10000 *

    Cruz says a lot of things but sometimes seems more interested in self-promotion and fund-raising than actually doing things and passing laws. That’s not entirely a bad thing — politics runs on money, after all. But there’s more to politics than calling out Dingy Harry and smacking down Dick Durbin.

    I’ve been withholding judgement on him for a while simply because the sheer unadulterated nastiness of the liberal reaction to him persuaded me that he must have some really great qualities. I’m aware of how popular he is (my parents love him) but I’m still not sure what to make of him. Maybe a hat, a broach or a pterodactyl?

    I think he could be useful as the traditional conservative vanguard of a rebuilt GOP.

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  3. Hal_10000 *

    Let me add another comment to that:

    I think one of the problems with politics is that we are too often looking for a Messiah, the one great figure who will triumph over the other party and restore the Republic. Our current President is probably the biggest manifestation of that but it shows up every time a Presidential race comes up: we want a real conservative. We want a conservative who can beat the Democrats. We need a pro-life conservative. We can’t vote for Ryan; he supported Medicare Part D!

    I think a rebuilt conservative movement has to have many voices and many moving parts, especially if you’re going to reach a broad base of voters. I think you need someone like Christie to get moderates and Reagan Democrats. You need someone like Paul to get libertarians. And you need someone like Cruz to get traditional conservatives. A lot of the criticism of the GOP has focused on broadening the appeal to minorities and moderates and trying to win in blue states with less-than-conservative candidates like Scott Brown. That’s important., certainly But you can’t abandon conservatives either. A functional GOP has to be broad enough to span from semi-liberal New England conservative to rock-ribbed red state conservative.

    Hopefully, you can find someone electable who everyone will accept that can become President. But I think that’s actually not as important as building a coalition in Congress.

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  4. Mook

    I think a rebuilt conservative movement has to have many voices and many moving parts, especially if you’re going to reach a broad base of voters. I think you need someone like Christie to get moderates and Reagan Democrats. You need someone like Paul to get libertarians

    That sounds like BS conventional wisdom from the MSM. Reagan was nothing like Christie, whose style is confrontational and arrogant, yet Reagan was able to bring across many Democrats. And there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Cruz and Paul on most issues.

    Cruz’s strength, like Reagan, is his ability to explain, and explain persuasively, conservative policies and positions.. rather than sitting back letting liberals lie their asses off about what we believe and why, Cruz makes his own case. Democrats who engage Cruz get schooled, not because Cruz is so smart, but because his positions are better. Other the Paul, and possibly Mike Lee, no one else in the Republican party comes close to being so willing and able to explain the conservative position. Cruz, like Paul, is feisty, but feisty with class and intelligence. It doesn’t hurt that Cruz is almost 10 years younger than Paul and Christie.

    THAT ability to persuade is why the MSM went out of their way NOT to cover any substance of Cruz’s speeches, instead characterizing his words and actions without basis as some sort of self-centered extremist for his protest against Obamacare. They dare not deal with the specifics and substance of his arguments, which is why so few covered his actual speeches..

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