Ted Cruz, King of the Wild Frontier

The federal government shutdown is entering a second week with House Speaker John Boehner refusing to hold a vote on a “clean continuing resolution” that would reopen the government without delaying or defunding Obamacare. One of the key players in this standoff is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been doing his best to make the defunding of Obamacare at any cost a litmus test for fellow Republicans (meaning that they should be ready for a well-financed Republican primary challenger from the Tea Party if they go against Cruz).

The Washington Examiner’s Byron York relayed the comments of a GOP House member who refused to be identified but said “the Cruz phenomenon” caught Republican congressional leaders off-guard. He (I’m guessing this is the right pronoun) offered a military metaphor:


“I would liken this a little bit to Gettysburg, where a Confederate unit went looking for shoes and stumbled into Union cavalry, and all of a sudden found itself embroiled in battle on a battlefield it didn’t intend to be on, and everybody just kept feeding troops into it,” the congressman said. “That’s basically what's happening now in a political sense. This isn’t exactly the fight I think Republicans wanted to have, certainly that the leadership wanted to have, but it’s the fight that’s here.”

Last week, a Cruz acolyte in the House proclaimed, “We’re not going to be disrespected” by the Obama administration, but respect for Boehner’s leadership seems to be optional among his caucus members.

But is Cruz honoring—if perhaps taking it to a new level—the American political tradition of pushing away protocol? Commonweal’s Robert Geroux puts the Cruz crusade in the context of an “end of deference” in American politics:

In his book on American exceptionalism, Seymour Martin Lipset listed a resistance to defer to authority as one principle that characterizes the ideology of “Americanism,” next to the pursuit of liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and a laissez-faire attitude. So self-assertion may be part of our cultural DNA. […]

Cruz is […] not such an outlier. His actions and words remind us that we are counseled everywhere and at every turn in popular culture to be aggressive, that only winners matter, and that every compromise is a loss. His “fast track” acknowledges no principled deference to the more moderate “squishes” in his own party.

I think there’s something to this, but political aggression is not considered OK for everyone. It’s celebrated as a small-town virtue, distinct from the “community organizing” in urban areas (which often challenges political machines) that Sarah Palin and Rudy Guiliani sneered at in 2008.

Who are the equivalents to Cruz in the Democratic Party? Cruz is the junior senator from a large state that voted against the incumbent president by 16 points. Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton was the junior senator from a large state (heavily urban New York) that voted against the incumbent president (George W. Bush) by 18 points. But she was hardly someone who believed that “every compromise is a loss,” and she deferred to the Bush administration by supporting its policy to invade Iraq.

As for Obama, he has always been a “squishy” Democrat, adopting a Republican governor’s market-based policy for expanding health insurance coverage instead of fighting for the single-payer system that most Democratic activists wanted. Obama has always been aware that if he used hardball tactics (such as threatening to run primary challengers against Democrats who don’t vote his way) they would be condemned as thuggish politics, and not as Cruz-style individualism. In 2008, conservative writer Michael Barone actually undercut Palin’s attempt to paint Obama as a radical by saying he had been, essentially, too deferential to power. (“As a state senator and then as a U.S. senator, Obama took care not to antagonize the Chicago civic establishment.”)

Bluster and self-regard seem to work for Texans, but consider a “bizarro world” situation. According to Roll Call, the current government shutdown would end if Boehner allowed a vote on a clean continuing resolution and 17 Republican members joined the 200-member Democratic caucus to pass it. Imagine if the 41-member Congressional Black Caucus refused to go along with such a deal unless it included a revised Voting Rights Act that would pass muster with the U.S. Supreme Court. Or if the CBC made full congressional representation for the District of Columbia, something that’s been shamefully denied for centuries, a condition of raising the national debt. Would the Democratic Party give a respected elder statesman like U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta the power and, yes, the deference that the Republican Party gives Ted Cruz? History does not suggest an affirmative answer.

Photo from official website for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Related: "Religious Leaders Decry Federal Shutdown."


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Donna Greenwald
5 years ago
I respect Sen. Cruz, he seems to have been finding his way with GENUINE caring, wanting to do right. No one else has been able to stop the Pres. as he proceeds with petulance, bluster, self-regard, stompling our rights.In my opinion, Mr. Obama is bringing our country down in so many ways, illogically, just to have his own misbegotten, naive way. I've watched, hoping,wanting to see any action at all to respect this President, then waited to see how this administration handled Benghazi. Tragic, embarrassing, contemptable. No class, just 'my way or the highway'. So how does one try to fight, negotiate, bring ideas, get the attention of someone like that? The Israelis know, they have had centuries with having to fight to survive. So kudos to Sen. Cruz for trying, speaking up, CARING. Politics with heart.
Marie Rehbein
5 years ago
Perhaps, you would have a different outlook on events if you had a better grasp of facts. You sound like you have been completely brainwashed by Fox News -- remember this "news" network started as a joke, hence the name Fox, which is a corruption of the FAUX, which is French for fake.
Stanley Kopacz
5 years ago
Cruz, like any Bagger politician, serves his billionaire masters well. Shutting down the government and crashing the economy? No problem. Wall Street upper crust has done better than ever since the Great Recession began and they know it. Desperate people can work for less. Bought for a pair of sandals is how I believe the Bible puts it. And the billionaires have the disposable cash to do it. Welcome to the establishment of oligarchy under the guise of liberty.
Carlos Orozco
5 years ago
I agree with your opinion of the corrupt influence of Wall Street, Stanley. But -to my knowledge- it is not Cruz, but Barack Obama whom is owned by the banks. In both of his presidential elections, Obama had megabanks as his biggest donors. On the other hand, the President has not said a word as Bernanke's Federal Reserve has "stimulated" the economy (creating a stocks bubble) to benefit the rich. Even more, until recently, he was considering appointing Larry Summers as Fed chairman. Summers -as Secretary of the Treasure- was instrumental in deregulating the banks during the Clinton presidency, allowing Wall Street to intoxicate the world economy with its derivatives.
Stanley Kopacz
5 years ago
Carlos, it is certainly true that big money has turned US politics into a sock puppet show. This was obvious as far back as Clinton's administration when NAFTA was passed and Glass-Steagal was killed. This new hideous strength generating the shutdown emerges in the shadow of the Citizens United decision and makes even relatively normal republicans like Böhner tremble before the money behind the Baggers. It must be mentioned that while everyone's eyes are on the shutdown, Obama's administration is pushing forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), called NAFTA on steroids. This will override national control of economic and trade borders, as well as ecological laws. True One-World type stuff, coming from a quarter not normally expected, not from the UN, but the multinational corporations. For my part, if Hillary is the next democratic candidate, I will vote Green Party. If Elizabeth Warren is, I will vote democratic. If Warren is elected and turns out like Obama, I suppose I'll just head for the hills.
J Cosgrove
5 years ago
Mr. Kopacz, You are seemingly arguing against big money control of the economy. This phenomenon is called "rent seeking." I suggest you read the article by Stacie Beck in May on this topic which argues against rent seeking. http://americamagazine.org/issue/just-economics Here is the wikipedia discussion on rent seeking http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking For one of the simplest and one of the best thought out views on economics by a Christian I recommend for all those interested, a book by Jay Richards. It is titled: Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem http://www.amazon.com/Money-Greed-God-Capitalism-Solution/dp/0061375616 You are arguing against rent seeking in certain places in your comments but then advocate it in others. Rent Seeking is essentially, fixing the system so that it is good for me but not for thee, or in some cases what is good for the people I like but is opposed for the people I do not like. For those who have a reflexive attitude that capitalism is the problem, not only read the Richards book above but the book by Baumol, Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity. In it he describes several types of capitalism, some of which like Rent Seeking are not positive. These are mercantilist capitalism, oligarchic capitalism, big-firm capitalism, entrpreneurial capitalism. http://www.amazon.com/Capitalism-Economics-Growth-Prosperity-ebook/dp/B0015DYG9C/ref=la_B001ILHF8K_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381324680&sr=1-5 And by the way I recommend that the author of this article read these too. That way he might be able to render a fair assessment of the people he is critical of.
Stanley Kopacz
5 years ago
Mr. Cosgrove, in my opinion, what we've been seeing over the last 30 years are reductions in regulation that has allowed increasing concentration of wealth, leading to more interference in elections and government, further deregulation, and so forth. In other words, a positive feedback loop. Positive feedback loops lead to catastrophe. Deregulate a steam engine and it blows up. It blows up faster if the regulation is reversed. Taxing the rich or corporations is always portrayed as a form of theft making it an instant morality play. I'm no expert or even a decent amateur, but it seems that economies are more healthy when there is flow, and circulation through the entire population. If taxing the rich is theft, then how about changing the monetary policy. If the dollar were devalued with respect to the yuan and rupee, it would be more advantageous to hire americans. This would allow the vast majority of the unemployed who want to work to have work to do and cease being portrayed by conservatives as bums. Eventually, I hope that cooperative enterprises will grow. I see these enterprises as the only hope for a more humane economic system.
J Cosgrove
5 years ago
Mr. Kopacz, I am not going to respond to all your points. It would take too long. I would recommend that you read Richard's book. It is written for the person of average intelligence and from my reading of your comments over the last couple years, you have above average intelligence. As far as the rich are concerned, I am certainly not one of them or even close and probably have less disposable income than you do so I am not beating my own drum except for what I want for my children and their children in the future. But there is all sorts of ways the rich use their money. It does not just stand still. A large percentage of their wealth is invested in risky ventures, the kind that very often pays off in remarkable breakthroughs in innovation that drive better things in life, whether it is health care, convenience, travel, education, communication, lower costs or lots of other examples. But a lot of these ventures lose large amounts of money. Steve Jobs was almost broke from investing over a $100 million in a new computer and animation technology till he hit a bonanza in Toy Storey. Jobs is now a legend with a lot of people and to some he is a villain. These sort of activities are what has driven many of the breakthroughs in history. The world of the last 150 years is full of examples of breakthroughs either by science, engineering or other forms of innovation and it is the average person that gets to take advantage of these investments in new processes or products. Go to some place like Mexico or Australia or India and you will see people using all these innovations even though these countries had little to do with their success or spread. So the rich are easy targets but they have the money to invest and without this investment a lot of the modern world would be much different. A sentiment that many wish were true because they do not like many aspects of the modern world. But what one personally might not care for has become essentials for others. The Jesuits who edit this magazine have included culture as a basic necessity for people along with food, clothing, shelter, education and health care. When I was growing up, it was a rat race just for my parents to feed one's family let alone all these other necessities. And a lot of the rich or people who got rich are responsible for these new necessities. The problem is how best to regulate/deregulate the economy to satisfy everyone. We have different perspectives so that is why I recommend Richard's book. See what he says. He is looking for the moral way to distribute goods and services.


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