In a shocking development, Congress struck a short-term deal. Several months from now, we will face another looming fiscal crisis. But, for the time being, we can breathe a sigh of relief and be grateful that our system of government is not totally broken.
When asked whether he planned on delaying a vote on the deal, Sen. Ted Cruz gave a statement that strains credulity:
Delaying this vote would not accomplish anything. The focus is and should be on the substance of providing real relief for the American people. This deal doesn’t do that and that’s why I intend to vote no, but there is nothing to be benefited by delaying this vote a couple of days, versus having it today.
Everything he said was true weeks ago. Suffice it to say that the shutdown was essentially a Ted Cruz vanity exercise. The pundits have a fairly standard analysis: The senator’s conduct helps him with the party’s base but hurts the part’s brand nationally.
I might take both points a little further. Everyone who pays attention now knows that Ted Cruz is articulate, brilliant, smug, principled, arrogant and bold. For a freshman senator to have such a well-defined profile is an accomplishment. In Texas, every statewide Republican primary candidate is trying to out-Cruz the others. At the same time, the GOP’s brand is not just tarnished, but almost ruined with nothing to show for it.
This is a narrative that we’ve seen play out in several different iterations. When a politician ingratiates himself or herself to the energized and mobilized (and extreme) base of his or her own party, he or she alienates the great silent plurality- those middle-of-the-road mostly nonpartisan voters that decide national elections.
Hyperpartisanship may be incentivized in the primary elections but clearly makes for an ineffective governing strategy. It’s clear that Sen. Cruz doesn’t even care about governance. He is more concerned about the fight and the ensuing circus. Sen. Lindsey Graham conceded that the natural evolution of this mindset has damaged the Republican Party and conservatism.
This is a problem. Our system of government is dependent upon the existence of two rational governing parties.There are reasonable arguments for a society wherein fair and free markets are the ordering agent. These arguments will never be considered when their proponents insist on relitigating past elections over and over again. These arguments will never be considered when their proponents deny the validity of science and math. These arguments will never be considered when their proponents wish to root laws governing marriage and textbook selection in Leviticus.
As long as Ted Cruz is the standard-bearer of true conservatism, conservatism will suffer. And, believe it or not, we will all suffer as a result.