Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and the Republican Party, didn’t get anything out of the past couple of weeks. Senator Cruz got a whole lot of publicity, which is seems to be exactly what he was after. It might be what he needed to get name recognition to make a run for the GOP nomination for President in 2016, which is what many of the political pundits think he was trying to do. Whether there are enough Republicans who agree with him in order to make that possible remains to be seen. I tend to think that the more mainstream elements of the party will never allow someone that far to the right to carry their party standard into a presidential election. In fact, I think they are seeing that Mr. Cruz, and the tea partiers he claims to represent, are really not very closely aligned with conservative Republicans at all.
Basic Philosophical Disagreement
The Tea Party segment of the GOP that is represented by Cruz is a relatively small group. Once the initial newness wore off, and things began to shake out, it became clear that their main influence was the intimidation they could cause among Republicans by threatening to run conservative candidates during primaries against members of Congress in geographic regions where they were vulnerable. Republicans whose interest in keeping their job weighs against their conviction on certain issues have reluctantly avoided voting in a way that might put them on a target list.
Most Tea partiers of the Cruz perspective hold an anti-government view that is extreme when it is compared to the Reaganesque “less government is better” philosophy of the GOP. Most of the GOP’s platform is irrelevant as far as tea partiers like Cruz are concerned, because it requires a level of government involvement that they are not willing to accept. And they won’t compromise. They know they cannot win votes, and they are going to have trouble winning enough elections to get enough of their like minded colleagues into office. So they operate by being unbending, and by intimidation. That has limited the effectiveness of the only card that the Republicans have to play, which is their slim majority in the House of Representatives.
Shooting Cannons at Gnats
The recent exercises in futility, the filibuster by Cruz that did nothing, the sequester, shutting down the government, did not accomplish anything. Cruz keeps saying that his goal is to end Obamacare. But the problem with that view is that Obamacare was already proposed, debated, passed by Congress, and approved by a majority of voters via the re-election of the President, the expansion of the Democratic senate majority, and the increase in the number of house seats they gained. Most Republicans accept that the debate on the issue is over, the legislation is passed, and it is the law of the land. It has even been declared constitutional by a conservative-majority Supreme Court.
Essentially, what Cruz has done led to a shutdown of the government, which cost more than $20 billion dollars, and which, because of the way the Republican leadership, particularly the Speaker of the House, has behaved, has led to the Republicans being blamed for it all. We are essentially a year away from the mid-term Congressional elections. Most people won’t have to look at polls to know that the Republican Party’s chances of keeping control of the House is slim to none. Cruz will deliver Congress to the President’s party, and perhaps a filibuster proof senate along with it, and spent more than $20 billion in the process, and all of that collateral damage will not have resulted in anything happening to the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
I wonder if he thinks it was worth it.
And The Winner Is…
Confidence in the ability of Congress to accomplish its work is as low as it has been, since such things were measured by pollsters and pundits. I’ve always found it interesting that the lack of popularity of Congress normally doesn’t result in much change during an election, though the makeup of the House has changed a lot more since I turned 45 than it did for the 30 years prior to that. Most Americans would prefer that you vote against your Congressman, while they will continue to vote for their incumbent, thank you very much. Unfortunately, the Republicans who are most likely going to lose their seats in the house will be the ones who understand the need for negotiation, compromise, and who bring balance to the legislative process. One party will control both houses of Congress and the White House.
And the long range effects of this will more than likely continue to be felt into the 2016 election. The government shutdown, and the politics of Ted Cruz which brought it about, will be a major boost to the Democratic candidate for President, whoever that may be. With Tea Partiers being the Republicans who get the most attention in Washington, I can’t imagine that any Republican who ran for President, and who didn’t completely distance himself from Cruz, would stand any chance at all of winning. On the other hand, a candidate who did distance himself from Cruz might not get the nomination. Of course, if it turns out that all of this was about Cruz putting himself into a position to get the GOP nomination, then we’ll know what all of this was about in the first place.