Forget Green Eggs and Ham.
Ted Cruz is smart.
Smart enough that if we had a Republican President he’d be in line for a Supreme Court nomination.
Cruz was valedictorian of his high school class. He graduated cum laude from Princeton, magna cum laude from Harvard Law. He was a primary editor of the Law Review, executive editor of the the Harvard Law and Policy Journal. He was Solicitor General of Texas. He has argued and won cases before the Supreme Court. He knows how things work. He knows he can’t defund Obamacare even if he reads Dr Suess’ entire oeuvre on the Senate floor. He knows that even if the government shuts down now or later over raising the debt ceiling, the shutdown won’t last long. He knows that, even so, it will cause damage to the country and to Republicans’ Congressional chances in 2014.
He knows and he doesn’t care.
Because he knows this.
Come 2016, everybody will have forgotten.
Everybody but the Right Wing zealots who make up the Republican base and control the party.
They’ll remember that Ted Cruz was their hero of the moment.
This is what I think is going on with Ted Cruz.
Ted Cruz is ambitious and cynical as well as smart.
He was smart enough to see before other Republicans and the geniuses in the political press corps that the odds were against our having a Republican President come 2013 and are still against it for 2017.
Which means the odds are against there being a Supreme Court Justice Ted Cruz any time soon.
But he was smart enough to see something else.
He looked over the Republican bench, the people the media and the Party establishment have marked as potential nominees, the Jindals, the Rubios, the Ryans, Santorums, Walkers, Christies, and Rand Pauls and he saw that none of them are smart enough, reactionary enough, mean enough, angry enough, and hateful enough to rally the Right Wing faithful who will decide the early primaries and caucuses and so the nomination.
None of them are all that, but Ted Cruz could be.
If there wasn’t going to be a Republican President to name Ted Cruz to the Supreme Court, there might yet be a Republican President named Ted Cruz.
That’s why he ran for Senate.
And that’s what he’s been up to since he became a Senator, showing the Radical Right that he’s smart enough, reactionary enough, mean enough, angry enough, and hateful enough to be their guy.
I’m not predicting anything. I’m not even concerned with 2016. I’m describing what I see going on right now.
The faithful want the government shut down. They're looking forward to the pain and trouble it'll cause. They like the idea that failing to raise the debt ceiling will produce chaos and panic on Wall Street. They don't believe they'll suffer themselves because they don't think they benefit from either a functioning federal government or healthy financial markets. Even if they do suffer, they don't care. They'll bear their suffering proudly.
The white, middle-aged, middle-class yahoos who make up the Right Wing base have shown they enjoy cutting off their own noses to spite their faces. They already believe they’re being screwed. They’re right. They just refuse to admit who's doing the screwing. They prefer to blame Them. And they’re willing to take another screwing as long as They aren’t getting any more of “our” money. Besides, another screwing just confirms them in their own sense of victimhood.
They’ve got themselves convinced that all spending by the federal government is either a form of theft---a system for giving “our” money to Them---or moral depredation---bribes for votes. They don’t get a dime back on the taxes they pay and even if they did, by gum, they don’t want any of that dirty money. What do you think we are, charity cases, like Them? We can get along on our own just fine.
It’s accurate and possibly consoling to point out they’re crazy and stupid. They are driven crazy by anger, hatred, and fear. They are made stupid by the same forces because they’d rather feel their anger and their hate and their fear than think.
They don’t see it that way, of course. They see themselves as heroes in a righteous war to take their country back. The operative word is the possessive pronoun. This is their country. They own it outright. The land was theirs before they belonged to the land, to pervert Frost. And they want to hold on to all of it. They feel it being stolen from them just because they feel themselves having to share it. Over the last two generations they’ve been forced to share it with more and more outsiders, invaders, interlopers, and thieves. With African Americans. With women. With gays. With immigrants with brown skin who speak Spanish and languages that sound Arab to them.
They hate and resent all of them and are on a mission to punish Them.
Them has begun to include the young.
This, ladies and gentlemen of the press, is your Tea Party.
They are not likeable but misguided regular folks. They aren’t a picturesque collection of goofballs, crackpots, and eccentrics. They are not conservative. They aren’t representative of average Americans. They aren’t a potential audience to be wooed, flattered, and coddled in the hope they can be exploited by your advertisers.
They are a right wing, reactionary, regionalist, rage-filled and racist movement to “take back”, which is to say, take over the country and if they can’t take over they’re willing to burn it all down for the sheer spiteful pleasure of watching it burn. If they can’t have it all to themselves, then none of Them will have it either.
Washington establishment journalists like Politico’s Roger Simon can kid themselves that they aren’t the real Republicans, that the real Republicans are the well-mannered, well-tailored, well-educated lobbyists and staffers who buy them lunch and invite them to parties and help find their children jobs and assure them that the grown-ups are really still in charge and no one of consequence in the GOP believes what the Tea Partiers believe or wants what the Tea Partiers want and soon, soon, very soon, the grown-ups will show their hand and things will get back to “normal”. And of course this would happen sooner if only the Democrats would play along, if only the President would “compromise” some more, because, as always, it’s somehow the Democrats’ fault.
And the grown-ups in the GOP, the few who are left, probably tell themselves the same thing, that sometime soon the craziness will blow over and they’ll be running he show again.
There are probably Democrats who buy into this too.
And we all know that time and demographics are against them. The country is skewing browner and younger and more liberal.
The problem is that as the country as a whole skews browner and younger and more liberal, the parts of it where the Right Wing is in charge are skewing whiter and older and more reactionary and in those places the crazies are making the most of the power they hold and will continue to hold for possibly another generation and that means they will continue to send their angry, hateful, and fearful representatives to Washington; meanwhile, the other parts of the country will send fewer and fewer “sane” Republicans there.
The Democrats’ best hope for regaining the majority in the House isn’t to defeat the likes of Louie Gohmert. That won’t happen. What is likely to happen is that my Congressman, Chris Gibson, a moderately-inclined Republican (He voted against the food stamp cuts, for example.) will be looking for a new job come January 2015.
The Tea Party---the Radical Right---is for all intents and purposes and for the foreseeable future the Republican Party.
It’s looking to me there’s a consensus growing among the pundrity, left and right, that Ted Cruz made a fool of himself in one way or another this week, that he did himself harm by making the Party leadership mad at him, that he accidentally helped the President and the Democrats by admitting the Tea Party’s dearest cause, the repeal of Obamacare (which, by the way, is just another way of saying the humiliation of the President. One and the same to them) is a legislative impossibility as long as the Democrats control the Senate and a Democrat lives in the White House.
But the people who think Cruz is a fool aren’t voting in the Iowa Republican Caucuses. The Republican Party leadership is a gang of weaklings, quislings, bunglers, and clowns. And even if Cruz has somehow helped the Democrats and the President now, he has driven home the point to the faithful who will be voting in the Iowa Caucuses that what they’re voting to do is put a Republican in the White House who is one of them, a Republican who is as angry and mean and willfully destructive as they are but who is also as smart as a Democrat.
And that Republican would be…?