The far-right machine has a growing pain: no factory warranties.
The Texans who wish they could recall Sen. Ted Cruz are multiplying rapidly, even though he’s barely halfway through his first year in Congress. They are Texans who understand that any shutdown of the federal government would be a disaster for the global economy, as much as for the USA and its credit rating. As the nation that’s deepest in debt, any nick in that rating would push the debt much deeper and shake Wall Street and the banks to their foundations.
But that’s the gamble Cruz is running. As Congress closed for its traditional August recess, he accused fellow Republicans of suffering “Stockholm Syndrome” in backing away from a showdown with President Obama over the Continuing Resolution that would keep the government open to start the next fiscal year October l. He wants that resolution, which will be the most urgent business when Congress returns, to leave Obamacare unfunded.
From his first day in the Senate, Cruz has left no doubt that he’s running for president himself, and he’s banking his chances of grabbing the top of the 2016 Republican ticket on killing Obamacare. He doesn’t trust the American people. He fears that if they actually taste universal health care they’ll like it. After all, every other developed nation has it, and likes it.
Maybe what he really fears is the”Canadian Syndrome.” Not only are our neighbors to the north getting free health care, they have no national debt. Can’t they see the imperative of joining us in the endless arms race of corporate welfare? Could they possibly be safe without a closet full of firearms in every house? How can they sleep well without a National Rifle Association, maybe the KKK too, leading their neighborhood watches? Don’t they understand how much they owe us ― us being the shield that goes with being the last superpower?
The warrantless Cruz is now straddling a dilemma of his own making. The more he grows his rabid following on the right, the farther right it pulls him. His constant aim is to kill the Affordable Care Act, by choking off the funds that would get it moving. He can’t let people taste universal care. One taste could sell them. Only a spineless socialist would let people have what they want. But as cheers ring louder in his ears, he finds few Republicans in Congress siding with him.
The momentary or partial shutdown of the federal system that he would risk to stop Obamacare has drawn stinging rebukes. His GOP Red River neighbor, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, calls it a “dishonest” strategy. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr sees it as “the dumbest idea I ever heard of.” Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, Deputy Republican Whip in the House, characterizes it as “a suicidal political tactic.”
But there’s no slowing down this Tea Party honey, who sees himself as savior of both party and country, the Hispanic star who will by face and name alone turn all those Democrats of like heritage into Cruz Democrats, duplicating President Reagan’s success with the JoeSixPacks. He’s betting that by 2016 no one will remember his readiness to turn off Social Security checks just to keep Affordable Care unfunded. He’s sure the Tea Partiers will remember him as the candidate who would deliver the small government they dream of by giving them no government at all. After all, there is a faint current of the anarchist in the Tea Party makeup.
From his first days in the Senate, Cruz has not hesitated to upstage Texas’ senior senator. Even though Sen. John Cornyn has given Texas high visibility and leverage as Deputy Leader of the Senate Republicans, first-term Cruz turned brash in his first months, daring to lecture the Senate on its misguided ways of doing business. How does such an ego expect to soon capture the grandest popularity contest of all?
Now the Texas senators are on opposite sides of the threatened shutdown. Todd Gillman, who covers Washington for the Dallas Morning News, wrote August 4 that Senator Cornyn “spent his week tamping down right-wing dismay over his refusal to join that burn-the-house-down approach.” Of Obamacare, he said, “I want to fight this monstrosity as much as anybody, but I want to make sure we fight smartly.”
But Cruz has been joined by fellow Tea Party Sen. Mike Lee of Utah in targeting the Continuing Resolution to keep the government running after October l. Their game plan is to line up enough Republicans to kill it by filibuster. But they’ve overlooked a minor detail. Their primary target, the Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court has already found constitutional, was enacted with its funding largely on auto-pilot. Gillman writes:
“The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service underscored that in the report issued Monday. Democrats project a smug confidence that the law is impervious to the sort of assault Cruz proposes.. . . Cornyn spent the week citing the report, and noting that shutdowns have backfired on congressional Republicans.”
The DMN further notes that “Cornyn is plenty conservative. He rarely shuns from ideological fights” ― but hardly conservative enough for the junior senator, who counts on all the headlines he’s making to lock up the Tea Party favor that will put him atop the GOP ticket in 2016. He never misses a chance to preach the Tea Party line, “We want our country back.” They count on the people missing how little the phrase meets reality. Which country is it they want back? The one that defined blacks as only three-fifths human, and counted women not at all? Or the one that pressed children into factory labor? Or the one that let few but the privileged into college and the professions?
Time is not his friend. If the CR has the government running as usual on October l, the state insurance exchanges that Affordable Care then opens will start enrolling participants. And preexisting conditions will no longer be denied coverage for those enrolling. So Cruz is using the five-week recess to barnstorm the country with former Sen. Jim Demint, now president of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, who gladly joins him in pushing for a grassroots groundswell against the expanded health coverage.
However, the Affordable Care partisans have their own push spreading across the States to explain the coverage and answer criticism. Their numbers may enable them to upstage Cruz and Demint all along the road. With the fastest growing retirement population, Texans should be thankful that Cruz will not succeed in closing the government October l and leaving all those checks un-mailed. They are not just the checks to seniors but the much fatter ones to weapons makers, and the precious ones that feed the outsized concentration of major military bases and personnel that Texas proudly hosts.
How long will Cruz’ ego keep him talking and acting against the better interests of his State? Fellow Texans in large numbers will go along, somehow thinking that the Lone Star State can always have it both ways: milking federal programs with both hands, while branding the cow as a menace to the people. But the other States aren’t going along. Cruz so plainly wears the bigger-than-life Texas bearing that people elsewhere want no part of. It’s a hard lesson of politics that’s coming his way, and he’s likely to get through it too late to help his chances in 2016. The bandwagon he counts on riding very soon ― sporting the made-in-Texas flag on the hood ― could by the 2014 primaries be bumping along on four flat tires.
Frank Mensel ― August 2013