Explaining Ted Cruz


In the matter of a few days, Ted Cruz went from being the momentary voice of reason in the Republican party, by admitting that they don’t have the votes in the Senate to defund Obamacare, to announcing a kamikaze mission to filibuster the Republicans’ own bill to do so in order to…well, do something. Jonathan Bernstein explains his behavior:

The dynamic that drives much of what congressional Republicans do is very simple: They are terrified of being labeled squishes, RINOs or, even worse, liberals. In any objective sense, of course, this is nonsense; polarization in the House is at record levels, meaning that there’s a clear divide between even the most moderate members, with the most liberal Republican easily more conservative than the most conservative Democrat. Nevertheless, politicians are paranoid by nature, and in a world in which conservative Utah Sen. Bob Bennett was defeated for renomination, there’s enough evidence available in recent memory for them to act on that paranoia.

In practice, what that means is that mainstream conservatives try to avoid allowing any distance between themselves and whoever can plausibly call themselves “True Conservatives” and get away with it…

Simply put: When you’ve reduced your entire movement to saying “no” to Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, is it any surprise that whoever shouts “NO” the loudest will wind up defining what counts as “conservative”?

Indeed, if you happen to be a demagogue running for president on the platform that you are the only True Conservative and everyone else is a squish or a RINO or a secret liberal, then the best plan is to find the most convoluted, self-destructive, but nevertheless very loud way of saying “no.” Which is basically what Ted Cruz and his allies have done with the demand that Republicans tie keeping the government open to defunding the ACA.

In 2010, when the Tea Party was at its peak and sending far-right extremists to Congress by the dozen, I said that this would backfire on the Republicans. This is a perfect example of why. Tea Party zealotry makes compromise and pragmatism anathema; only purity matters and almost no one is ever pure enough. It’s a good way of playing to their base during primary season but it makes governing impossible and success in general elections far more difficult.

Comments

  1. raven says

    I said that this would backfire on the Republicans.

    I missed this part.

    It hasn’t happened yet. They aren’t losing elections for being cuckoo and nihilistic.

    And you can’t blame them. Dogs will be dogs and tapeworms will be tapeworms. It’s the voters who put them there that get the blame.

    Toynbee got one thing right. Every civilization falls sooner or later. None of them last. And most of them are killed from within.

  2. Abdul Alhazred says

    Check out sites such as Free Republic if you have the stomach for it.
    Ever since the filibuster they’ve beed talking about Cruz for president.

  3. raven says

    FWIW, while Obamacare isn’t that big a deal, they clearly hate it and are actively trying to sabotage it.

    It remains to be seen if it will be a success or not. It doesn’t even start until 2014. But so far, it looks like it might be.

    1. Enrollment projections are running ahead of expectations based on interest expressed.

    2. More Republicans than Democrats have put their under 26 year old kids on their health care plans. In other words, GOPers are likely to be heavy users of….Obamacare.

    Wait and see, but if Obamacare is a success, they might have some explaining to do. Or, their voters with attention spans of a fruit fly might just forget it.

  4. says

    …polarization in the House is at record levels…

    Thanks, Obama!

    …meaning that there’s a clear divide between even the most moderate members, with the most liberal Republican easily more conservative than the most conservative Democrat…

    Well, that’s just because even the “most conservative” Democrat is an Marxo-Alinsky-Communist. Meanwhile, the GOP reflects the ideology and will of The American People. Obviously.

    raven “Toynbee got one thing right. Every civilization falls sooner or later. None of them last. And most of them are killed from within.”
    Exactly, and that’s why we have to stop Obamacare now, before it has a chance to destroy the country!

  5. Randomfactor says

    Calgary Ted Cruz voted to fund Obamacare (well, by his logic, since he joined the unanimous vote to shut his phony filibuster down.)

    That would cost him points with the teabaggers, if they could count that high.

  6. troll says

    @2, I missed it too. I roll my eyes at all my fellow lefties who declare that the GOP’s latest antics will finally destroy it. Unrealistic optimism and wishful thinking. The teabaggers just keep upping the stupid, and while it may be holding them back in individual elections here and there, they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. I think the fever swamp is going to be with us for quite some time, and it’s bound to get worse.

  7. raven says

    Why Republicans Are Starting to Love Health Reform – The Daily …
    www. thedailybeast. com/…/why-republicans-are-starting-to-love-health-r…‎

    Aug 28, 2013 – Turns out a lot of Republicans love coverage for their kids, and preexisting … were more into this provision of the ACA than Democrats. … Thanks to Obamacare, the grown-ups are putting their kids on their insurance plans.

    Them’s the facts.

    Given that the demographic for the Tea Paty includes the poor, uneducated, and dumb, they are likely to be heavy users of…Obamacare.

    Already some segments of the fundie xians are walking their death cult talk and dying younger. In parts of the USA where they live, average life spans are dropping sharply. No one is quite sure why but access to health care is suspected to be part of it.

  8. Randomfactor says

    There’s a reason the GOP keeps talking about Obamacare as a “train wreck.” They’ve tied themselves to the track, and a wreck is the only thing that will save them.

  9. Michael Heath says

    I strongly disagree with this analysis. The less radical conservatives in the GOP share the very same affliction as those who Tea Partiers love, and that’s their:
    a) ignorance coupled to,
    b) a complete dependency on arguments premised on falsehoods which are easily falsified by experts and,
    c) antipathy towards experts and their counsel.

    Yes there are some conservative Republicans who aren’t as extreme. However, zero congressional Republicans consistently demonstrate they’re well-informed on the most important domestic policy issues being debated, especially in regards to economics and energy policy. To begin to see even a minority of Republicans speak-out in favor of certain positions would take a complete reversal of their current perspective, e.g., literate vs. ignorance, truth vs. lies, arguments favored by experts vs. antipathy towards expert opinion, premises supportive of the lessons of history vs. an ignorance of history or a dependency on misconstruing history.

    I don’t think the current set is even capable of such a transformation.

  10. Trebuchet says

    Anyone who ever thought Cruz was the Republican “voice of reason” wasn’t paying attention to what he said immediately after saying the House bill was DOA: That the House needed to stick to its guns and shut down the government.

    And I don’t see the lunacy backfiring on Republicans any time soon, thanks to the massive gerrymandering that occurred after Republican takeovers of state legislatures in 2010.

  11. Chiroptera says

    In 2010, when the Tea Party was at its peak and sending far-right extremists to Congress by the dozen, I said that this would backfire on the Republicans.

    How is this backfiring? It’s created such a rabid loyal base that for several more election cycles they are probably guaranteed gerrymandered majorities in several key state legislatures and the US House of Representatives (and be worried that those states may succeed in distributing their electoral college votes accoring to their gerrymandered electoral districts) as well as filibuster-capable minority in the US Senate.

    In time, they may very well lose enough votes that even the gerrymandering won’t be able to save them, but they may be able to achieve their goal of destroying the country before that happens.

  12. says

    Chiroptera “In time, they may very well lose enough votes that even the gerrymandering won’t be able to save them, but they may be able to achieve their goal of destroying the country before that happens.”
    They aren’t out to destroy the country. They’re out to save it. From facts.*

    * Also, gay people, poor people, black people, lady people, old people and children people (and, yes, there’s irony in the fact that a bunch of their base is poor, lady, or old. I think that goes just how far they’ll go to screw over groups they don’t like).

  13. D. C. Sessions says

    To begin to see even a minority of Republicans speak-out in favor of certain positions would take a complete reversal of their current perspective, e.g., literate vs. ignorance, truth vs. lies, arguments favored by experts vs. antipathy towards expert opinion, premises supportive of the lessons of history vs. an ignorance of history or a dependency on misconstruing history.

    We know that many of them know better than what they currently say. For example, up until five to seven years ago, quite a few leading Republicans were publicly in favor of taking steps against climate change, countercyclical fiscal policy, etc.

    I don’t think they’ve changed their minds, either on policy or on the value of expert opinion. I think they’ve responded to their constituents, who have demanded these positions from them.

    Call it pandering if you like, but it’s not really a reflection on the officeholders. We have met the enemy and he is us.

  14. typecaster says

    I’ve heard that the Republicans are going to self-destruct, or collapse into a Southern regional party, for decades now. It’s never yet been true, so I’d take bets that it isn’t true now. (I’d be happy to lose that bet, but I don’t think I would.) So, please, let’s stop teasing ourselves.

  15. dogmeat says

    They’ve created a (very) negative feedback loop. As government fails, they point to the failure of government and argue that they’re the only ones who can save the country. They then go to congress and make certain that government fails. As conditions get worse, they double down with their argument that government is the cause, specifically arguing that Obama is behind it. Repeat for, at this point, three years.

    What makes it worse is the rather consistent argument that “both parties are equally bad,” which is utter bull. The Democrats are often idiotic, incompetent, asshats, but even on their worst day they’re better than any of the Tea Party crowd and better than nine out of ten Republicans.

    You put the first cycle into our system, add the second, false dichotomy of “parties are bad” and plug in gerrymandering and you create a system where the Republicans are unlikely to go anywhere any time soon, but they’re also unlikely to win the presidency while equally likely to maintain control of the House.

    In the late 1920s to early 1930s Republican incompetence led to a shift to the Democrats within just a few short years. In our current political climate and structure, such a shift is highly unlikely.

  16. D. C. Sessions says

    Dogmeat, that’s not a negative feedback loop — it’s a positive one. (Yeah, I know — way too technical. Deal: it’s a precise term in my field.)

    Basically, the “sense” (positive, negative) of a feedback process is the proportionality between its displacement from equilibrium and the change in forces on it that result from that change.

    Example: a marble at the bottom of a bowl. Push the marble away from the bottom, and gravity will apply a force opposite to the direction that the marble is displaced (displace up, gravity down.) Negative feedback.

    Opposite example: balance a marble on top of a convex-up surface such as a dome. Displace the marble away from the balance point and observe that gravity will apply a force to the marble in the same direction as its displacement. Positive feedback.

    You may now return to totally ignoring the geekly interruption.

  17. raven says

    Even shorter Ted Cruse, “Hold my beer.”

    The most famous last words are:

    “Hey!!! Hold my beer and watch this.”

    Unfortunately, in his case the usual result may not happen but we can hope…

  18. dogmeat says

    Dogmeat, that’s not a negative feedback loop — it’s a positive one. (Yeah, I know — way too technical. Deal: it’s a precise term in my field.)

    DC,

    Actually I initially wrote positive feedback loop, but given the circumstances, and how difficult it is becoming to put the word positive into anything describing the Republicans, I shifted to negative. ;o)

  19. eric says

    Gotta agree with Raven, troll, and Chrioptera; doesn’t look like the strategy is causing much self-destruction in the political sense of costing the GOP representatives (and therefore, power).

    In 2008 there were no tea partiers in office because they didn’t exist. In 2010 there were a bunch, and the GOP controlled the House but not the Senate. In 2012 there were fewer tea partiers, but the GOP still controlled the House but not the Senate. The only way you can see this as “destructive” is to ignore all the data points before 2010.

    For a guy who just got through complaining that 60 poker hands was too few to judge the effect of skill, it seems a bit myopic to judge the effectiveness of the tea party primary strategy on 2 elections. Particularly since considering the last 3 elections (instead of 2) would show opposite trend – i.e., growth in ultra-conservative representation, rather than loss.

Leave a Reply