It seems that what passes for conventional wisdom has pretty much written off the stormy, incandescent career of the junior senator from Texas, “Tailgunner” Ted Cruz. The “tactical error” of bringing the country to the brink of default earned him the disapprobation of his party and enough condemnation by our collective thought leaders that we seem to have dismissed him from further consideration as a figure of national significance and appeal. And the sigh of relief and hopeful finality attending this dismissal is notably one of the few truly bipartisan undertakings of our otherwise sharply polarised politics and conflicted media commentary.
But let’s set aside, for the moment, the convenient notion that we have survived this political asteroid. His meteoric career impacted squarely on the fault line dividing the modern Republican party at a crucial moment. Is this accidental?
Just as the leadership prepared to abandon the single, defining policy issue which had been used to demonise the administration and whip support for almost four years, Cruz weighs in and makes a perfect riot out of what the party was hoping to quietly concede. In the process he wins a Gungam style volume of earned media, unimpeachable ‘outsider’ status in spite of having trod the corridors of power in Washington for a decade and a distant fourth in the history of filibusters.
He has also captured the unswerving loyalty of a significant cohort of disgruntled, activist Republicans who were the true believers. Sorry, folks, but this is no accident, it is the calculated, if somewhat volatile, opening gambit of a presidential nomination campaign.
You see, it doesn’t matter what other Republicans and the media think, or say, about Cruz. Every criticism levelled at him now just makes the nativist Right cling to him more tightly. What should have probably been foreseen, but apparently wasn’t, is that Rand Paul, the other dark horse candidacy vying for the same constituency, was always Cruz’s only serious early competition. And Paul’s foreign policy stance is already inviting the Republican establishement to crush him; early and hopefully quite flat. Ironic that the party might be furthering Cruz’s nascent candidacy just as engaged supporters are considering their options.
“Where we are right now is eerily, uncannily, like the late 1970s,” he said. “You had Jimmy Carter in the White House and you had the same failed economic policies. Out-of-control spending, taxes, and regulation produced the exact same misery and stagnation. You had the same feckless foreign policy and the same naiveté making the world a much more dangerous place.”
Mike Koncal That ’70s Show, Starring Ted Cruz New Republic 15 Apr 14
So it’s the late 70s and he’s the candidate so… “Eerily, uncannily” he’s Reagan, right? Sheesh. Still, one can perhaps think of some people who might accept the “late 70s” malaise comparision, even in a general election. Can you?
Unlike last time if one candidate comes off the blocks with a confident majority of support within the marginal population of Republican primary voters the contest could become an early rout leading to a succession of establishment firewalls which the activist rump of the party would just love to try breaching. If this is a credible scenario then it might be argued that Cruz has already established a path toward such a victory.
Perhaps we should start having a look at that. Because if this guy wins the nomination we’re in for a proper sleigh ride.