It was not that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) lacked a “game plan” on Obamacare. Cruz’s gab-fest was the end game, a way of hoisting himself above fellow gadfly Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), of attacking fellow Republicans who have the temerity to demand a legislative purpose not a chest-thumping exercise and of making sure he commands the most ardent troops on the right pining for someone to express their burning resentment and paranoia.
He will stop at nothing. The depth of his narcissism and the crassness of his politics became evident when he compared his Republican opponents to Nazi appeasers:
In his air of moral superiority, he mimics President Obama, not conservative icon Ronald Reagan. Obama, to my knowledge, never dared to use the Nazi analogy, but accused Republicans of putting party above country, wanting us to breath dirty air and practicing social Darwinism. Cruz goes a step further in casting his fellow conservatives as quislings.
Unlike Winston Churchill (the man who spotted real evil), Cruz seems not to grasp that the distinguishing feature of a vibrant democracy is the toleration of and respect for political opponents (not to mention political allies). In his world, opponents are not simply wrong, but morally defective or enablers of evil.
This is an ambitious man who will not distinguish himself by legislative accomplishments nor with a legion of colleagues and acquaintances praising his personal virtues. (Does anyone from college remember him fondly?) Cruz knows that only by appealing to his base’s basest emotions — anger, paranoia, resentment, radical fervor — will he elevate himself.
Cruz is a big deal you see. He’s bigger than getting rid of Obamacare. He’s bigger than the GOP. But he will go to great lengths to convince you he is but a selfless warrior for you, the besieged conservative who can’t get anyone to tell you exactly what you want to hear — again and again, with more anger and certitude than you’ve ever heard.
It is evident that no one who didn’t fervently believe on Tuesday Obamacare is a scourge would wake up on Wednesday convinced of its destructiveness. Cruz does not persuade; he incites. The people who thought him swell on Tuesday are enraptured now, mistaking a self-serving and self-made ordeal for real political courage.
The pundit class proclaimed that even if he loses, he wins. Perhaps. There are few substantial GOP donors who would support a man so reckless with the party’s future. He’ll enjoy no support from fellow senators aside from the band of misfits supporting his charade. (Sen. David Vitter, Sen. Mike Enzi and Sen. Marco Rubio, to name three, all are suffering either an identity crisis or are in desperate need of a gold star from the party’s principal extremist.)
But by bedtime Tuesday it was evident that Cruz has further subdivided the conservative universe. A good chunk even of the conservative media began to mock him, a fate far worse than criticism. He now holds in his grasp a sliver of a sliver of the American electorate. If only intensity made up for volume.
I can’t think of a man less Reaganesque in approach and style. Reagan had an 11th commandment not to criticize fellow Republicans; that’s most of Cruz’s shtick. Reagan was self-effacing; Cruz is self-referential. Reagan was magnanimous and the quintessential happy warrior, inducing people who disagreed with him to love him; Cruz is fueled by unbridled hubris and seems perpetually angry, inducing people who agree with him to dislike him.
In the end who benefits from this? Well, those fund raising off his stunt (Heritage Action, FreedomWorks). And of course the Democrats who can, whatever suits the moment, use Cruz to paint the GOP as the party of destruction or to confuse voters about who voted to get rid of Obamacare. (A vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare Cruz asserts!)
The smart conservatives who told us Cruz was brilliant may not have been wrong. But they should have assessed his character more carefully. Perhaps they now will.