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.