I have to preface this column with a disclaimer: I’m a big fan of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. His policy goals are my policy goals. But here comes the traditional “but.”
But although his goals are admirable and shared by conservatives across the country, he has no idea how to achieve them. In fact, his actions in the Senate, which are bringing him praise from conservative groups and grassroots activists, are harming the cause.
It’s an unpopular statement to make on the pages of Townhall. My column Thursday didn’t mention Cruz because it was written before he forced a cloture vote in the Senate on a debt limit increase. Yet, the comments, tweets and emails I received overwhelmingly cited his actions as its inspiration.
If I had that kind of foresight, I’d be a multibillionaire from lottery winnings. As it’s Friday and I’m writing another of these columns, this clearly is not the case.
But since his name was thrown around so frequently by people upset by my being a “sell-out,” a “closet Democrat,” a “squish” and much more, I think it’s important to revisit the subject of electoral strategy and the junior senator from Texas.
I would love it if Ted Cruz were president. But he’s not. He’s one of 45 Republicans in the 100-member Senate. If the other 44 were Cruz clones, and all were in the Senate, he/they still wouldn’t have enough votes to advance their agenda.
Sure, he could filibuster everything and shut down the government again, but the only thing that would accomplish would be to ensure there would be a lot of people referred to as “former Sen. Cruz” after the election this fall.
How can I say that and say I’m a fan? Because it’s true.
I fully support the limited government, Constitutional conservatism Ted Cruz desires, but I also recognize he has no strategy to achieve it.
Cruz is a brilliant man, but that doesn’t make him a brilliant leader.
After his move on the debt ceiling vote, he went on the Mark Levin Show to explain it. I know Mark a little from having interviewed and emailed him quite a bit, have enormous respect for him and consider him the best in the business. But he’s not exactly an impartial jurist.
In defense of his debt ceiling move, Cruz said, “If 41 Republicans had stood together and just voted ‘no,’ the clean debt ceiling, the blank check that President Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi wanted, would have been denied.” (The quote starts around 6:17.)
Yes, technically true. But then what? What is the next move?
That’s where Cruz loses me, and the argument. Principle is not a plan. It’s part of the problem with Cruz. It’s one thing to stand on the sidelines and tell others how they should have acted/played/whatever, when you’re not in the game. But he’s acting like an observer and he is in the game.
Cruz went on to immediately talk about Gramm-Rudman-Hollings and the Budget Control Act, which shows just how ‘in the weeds” he lives. Yes, they’re important pieces of legislation from the past, but they mean nothing to anyone who isn’t already on his side. No persuadable voter, the people who swing elections, has ever uttered those words before, let alone voted either way because of them. If you’re talking to a group of activists or someone as educated and engaged as Mark Levin, it’s read meat. If you’re talking to anyone outside of that, it’s eyes-glazed-over and nobody’s home.
Yes, people should know and care about them, and the deficit and debt, but they don’t. Polls show majorities think the government should live within its means, but they’re much more concerned with jobs and the economy. Although all that is tied together, nobody makes that case in anything approaching a compelling way.
To make a difference, a politician must be able to convey important information in an easily understandable and even entertaining way. One may say this is a sad commentary on American culture, but that doesn’t change it even a little.
Ted Cruz plays well with people already on his side. That includes me, but it does not include a majority of the American public.
Yes, we are a center-right nation – poll after poll shows that. But what does it say about the ability of center-right politicians to convey that message when the center-right citizenry continues to elect and re-elect progressives? Those progressives – from President Obama on down – won by using center-right language and essentially lying to voters. They made better use of conservative language than actual conservatives.
Why? Because when he explains why he screwed many of his fellow party members, Cruz cited budget law from the 1980s; progressives beat him by talking to people like they’re normal human beings. They’re lying, but their lies are more compelling than the truth, even when presented by someone who actually believes it. That’s a huge problem. And it’s a problem Ted Cruz isn’t attempting to address.
What is Ted Cruz’s plan to win? I don’t know. I really don’t.
Search his website. Look at the legislation he’s sponsored and co-sponsored. There aren’t a lot of victories there. Moreover, there are not a lot of solutions offered. Where is his grand vision for the country? It’s all well and good to say someone is doing something wrong, but you have to offer something in its place.
What would Cruz have done if he’d successfully filibustered the debt limit increase? He rightly wanted concessions, offsets and reforms, but what was his move when the Democrats and White House said “no?” What if they simply had refused to negotiate?
We don’t have to imagine the outcome. We saw it play out last October. How’d that work out again?
What Cruz doesn’t realize, or hopes you don’t realize, is Democrats and the White House will never negotiate.
Imagine you’re sitting across from al Qaeda leadership to talk peace. They want you and all Americans dead; you don’t want anyone to die. How do you negotiate with that?
Your opening offer is “Don’t kill us and we won’t kill you.” But they view killing us as their calling, and they’re perfectly willing to die. Do you find a middle ground with that? Some people can be killed, just not all? Everyone can have their left hand chopped off? What?
There is no answer because they just want to kill everyone. Progressives will not negotiate because they don’t care how their policies harm people. They believe their goal is noble – and if you have to harm people, trample rights, lie, whatever, along the way, well, that’s just what you have to do. The ends justifies the means.
You want to purge the Republican Party of “squishes,” I’m with you. But how about we do it from a position of power? A lot of the notes I got said we need to get rid of Sens. John McCain and Mitch McConnell before we do anything else. Great, but McCain isn’t up till 2016. And McConnell’s primary opponent said this week, “I’d be willing to lose the Senate if it meant keeping America.” It doesn’t.
If we don’t win the Senate in 2014, we lose the Senate until 2018, at the earliest. There simply aren’t enough vulnerable Democrats up in 2016. So this is it – our best chance for four years. If you want to burn calories and spend money and energy on Republican infighting, you may end up beating a few less-than-conservative senators and have a more principled caucus. But it still will be a minority caucus.
There’s a great South Park episode featuring “Underpants Gnomes,” gnomes who would steal kid’s underpants as part of their business plan. Their plan consisted of collecting underpants – then ? – and that would equal profit. The middle step, the important step, was missing. But the gnomes were convinced of the success of their plan nonetheless.
This, as best as I can tell, is the plan of those Republicans most vocal in their criticism of fellow Republicans. They are the “Underpants Gnome Caucus,” convinced their dislike of the current state of things will somehow change them. And Cruz is their chairman. If they don’t start thinking and acting strategically, or find that missing middle step to turn underpants into profit, they will be the most principled members of the minority party in Congress.
I look forward to reading how I’m awful and “the problem” in the comments, but I’d rather read a well-though-out alternative plan that can win.