Ted Cruz stood on the floor of the Senate and answered his critics: “….do you expect me to remain here silent, or to shrink from the discharge of my duty?… I will speak in spite of all the intimidations, or threats, or discountenances that may be thrown upon me.”
Actually, Ted Cruz did not say that. But the fact that it is so easily believable that he did say it says exactly why Ted Cruz, Time magazine’s selection of the Pope notwithstanding, is the real “Man of the Year.” In fact, while Cruz did make Time’s shortlist, he also popped up in a Rasmussen poll just behind the Pope and President Obama as 2013’s “most influential person.”
The man who said the words above was another celebrated Senator from Texas.
That would be Sam Houston, one of the fathers of Texas independence and the first United States Senator from Texas, as he rose on the Senate floor in 1854 to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska bill. Kansas-Nebraska, an overwhelming favorite with Houston’s fellow Democrats, repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and reopened the issue of extending slavery that had presumably been settled by the Compromise of 1850. Houston, correctly as it later turned out, saw the bill as fueling the fires of civil war.
His fellow Senate Democrats were infuriated with Houston. Already viewed with suspicion for what was termed his “eccentric dress and his habit of whittling pine sticks on the Senate floor while muttering at the length of senatorial speeches,” Houston was now assailed as a “traitor.”
Today, the term of art is not “traitor” — it’s “wackobird.”
And the target is another United States Senator from Texas — Ted Cruz.
As was true of Sam Houston, these kinds of attacks do not come the way of the unaccomplished or the politically fearful. If Houston is today seen as both a Texas legend and American hero, it is less remembered that he was once the subject of fierce controversy, not only in the Senate but back home in Texas as well. Yet Houston stood tall as a torrent of abuse rained down on him. In the 20th century, Senator John F. Kennedy would cite Sam Houston’s political courage and his accomplishments, selecting Houston as one of eight senators celebrated for their impact both on the Senate and America in JFK’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Profiles in Courage. Houston and his senatorial colleagues from different eras in American history were held up as examples of senators who persisted in spite of “the risks to their careers, the unpopularity of their courses, the defamation of their characters” and ferocious attacks on “their reputations and principles.”
Nothing describes Ted Cruz better than that description of Sam Houston by John F. Kennedy.
Not for Cruz the idea that he was elected to represent Washington insiders, consultants and the Republican Establishment to his fellow Texans. Cruz is of the belief that his presence in the Senate gives him the responsibility to represent Texans in Washington, not Washington to Texas.
In the doing of actually representing his constituents — the citizens of Texas who have had it up to here with Washington shenanigans that are now costing them jobs, damaging their businesses and losing them their health care — Ted Cruz has established himself Houston-style as one of the nation’s most important — make that effective — Senators.
Here’s a short list of accomplishment that is extraordinary for a freshman senator:
• Obamacare: Cruz and fellow freshman Mike Lee of Utah were pilloried for rallying the grassroots in a call for the defunding of Obamacare. Contrary to the line from the White House, Democrats and their allies in the liberal media, it was the Obama administration that insisted on shutting down the government unless Obamacare was funded. In spite of the vitriol directed at Cruz, he and Lee have been repeatedly vindicated as Obamacare kicked in and began wreaking havoc on both the American health care system and the larger economy. Just as Ronald Reagan did repeatedly during his time in the White House, Cruz and Lee drew a philosophical line in the sand to contrast the differences between the parties.
• Gun Control: Along with Rand Paul and Mike Lee, Cruz led the fight to stop the Obama gun control initiative in its tracks. The key here was insisting on a 60-vote threshold on the Motion to Proceed, a parliamentary maneuver that effectively activated the conservative base and fingered wavering “red-state” Republicans and Democrats. The Obama gun control bill crashed and burned, infuriating the President who quickly walked into the Rose Garden and made his fury well known, blistering senators who had followed the lead of Cruz, Paul and Lee.
• Syria: Cruz again stepped into the breech, this time on a critical foreign policy issue. Standing resolutely against the idea of a US air attack on Syria unless there were identifiable American interests at stake, Cruz’s view won the day.
• Immigration: The son of a Cuban immigrant, Cruz was out front in the fight against the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” (four Republicans and four Democrats) who had fashioned a deeply flawed immigration bill that essentially promoted amnesty first while relegating border security to a lagging second place. Cruz stepped up with a tough border security plan and other measures that kept the bill from reaching more than 70 votes, reducing the immigration bill’s chances in the House. It is noteworthy that House Speaker John Boehner, fresh from castigating conservatives over the budget deal, is reported ready to begin a push for immigration next year. Setting up another clash between conservatives and the GOP Establishment — and providing Cruz yet another opportunity for leadership.
• Drones: Last but not least, Cruz stood with Rand Paul in Paul’s historic filibuster against U.S. drone policy. It was Cruz who forced Attorney General Eric Holder to acknowledge that yes, in fact, the Constitution really did keep the Obama administration — or any administration — from using drones to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil if said citizens did not represent an imminent threat.
What has been the result of all this Cruz activity?
Contrary to the notions floated by Washington’s Establishment minions, polls taken after the government shutdown that was supposedly such a horrific experience show something very curious indeed.
Take this CNN/ORC poll which was published on CNN’s site with this headline:
CNN/ORC poll: Democrats lose 2014 edge following Obamacare uproar
Washington (CNN) — What a difference a month makes.
A new CNN/ORC International poll indicates a dramatic turnaround in the battle for control of Congress in next year's midterm elections.
Democrats a month ago held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates.
That result came after congressional Republicans appeared to overplay their hand in the bitter fight over the federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling.
But the Democratic lead has disappeared. A new CNN/ORC poll indicates the GOP now holds a 49%-47% edge.
Then there’s this poll from the Washington Post headlined:
Obama’s ratings tumble after health-care flaws
Reports the Post:
The flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act has pushed President Obama to the lowest point of his presidency, with dwindling faith in his competence….Disapproval of Obama’s handling of the health-care law’s rollout stands at 63%, with a majority saying they strongly disapprove.
Then there was this Fox poll, also taken after the Cruz-led drive to defund Obamacare.
Support for Obama, health law plummets in new polls
And the Quinnipiac poll:
Dems Lose 9-Point Edge To Tie GOP In 2014 House Races
These polls are nothing if not vindication for Cruz.
In fact, they are more than that. We have written before in this space of President Reagan’s veto of the 1987 Clean Water bill that was pushed by Democrats as an environmental bill. Reagan saw the bill correctly as loaded with pork and having little to do with the environment. Reagan was assailed by Democrats on the floor of the House and elsewhere as being in favor of dirty water and pollution. The President summoned the House Republican leadership of the day to the White House and asked for their support of his veto. Since the Democrats controlled the House, there was no chance that House Republicans could stop the move to override Reagan’s veto. But Reagan wanted the GOP congressmen to stand up and oppose the override anyway. Why? Reagan believed as a general rule, and specifically in this case, that even when a loss was looming it was important, as he wrote in his diary, “to point out to the people how different the Dems & Reps are.” Then as now the GOP Establishment wimped — Reagan got the support of a mere 26 Republicans. And come the next election? The House GOP remained in the minority. Not until 1994, when Newt Gingrich has replaced the Establishment’s Bob Michel and began drawing Reagan-style sharp lines between House Republicans and Democrats did the GOP win the House — for the first time in 40 years.
Which is another way of saying that Ted Cruz has learned the lesson of Ronald Reagan. Unless the GOP regains its Reaganite status as a party of “bold colors” it is doomed to minority status.
It is a rare thing for a freshman United Senator to make the impact that Cruz has made in his very first year in the Senate. To take a stand, to stick with it impervious to the assaults and petty jealousies of the crowd. And most importantly to bring about change.
What Cruz is about is precisely what Ronald Reagan was about. Recognizing that the world of liberal utopia — a world of income redistribution and massive government regulation, socialism — is antithetical to freedom. Not to mention that it is destined for failure.
To do this…to be effective….is, of course, precisely why Ted Cruz has attracted such intense attacks. Adding to the mix is that Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant, is also a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School — a star of the Ivy League. Generations ago it was said of Franklin Roosevelt’s opponents that they hated him because FDR — a patrician, upper-class Ivy Leaguer — was a “traitor to his class.” In today’s world Ivy Leaguers are expected to buy into the world of American liberalism. Not unlike another Ivy League Texan — George W. Bush — Cruz didn’t buy in, making him a magnet for the kind of intense feelings of class betrayal that Bush attracted routinely.
On top of this, as with Reagan, Cruz’s well-thought out conservatism and his uncanny ability to pleasantly explain his views in crystal clear language — and successfully act on them — has drawn the furies of the Republican Establishment in Washington. The wrath of his fellow Republican senators and their appalling willingness to attack one of their own in an all-too apparent willingness to sell out their own constituents in the Obamacare showdown was a stunning advertisement for politicians who see the GOP as exactly what Reagan insisted it should never be — a “fraternal order.”
The presence of Ted Cruz in the Senate this last year raises the question that was at the center of the holiday classic film It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart. As all of America is reminded at Christmastime when the film pops up everywhere, the movie explores the idea of just what the lives of the good citizens of Bedford Falls would have been like had Stewart’s character George Bailey never lived.
What would the last year have been like in Washington had Ted Cruz lost his primary last year to the GOP Establishment candidate? It’s clear that the serious policy fights listed above might well have had a different — which is to say worse — outcome.
No Ted Cruz in the Senate? There would be no understanding with the American people that there are Republicans deadly serious about repealing Obamacare — and that liberals were so obsessed with getting control of their private health care they were willing to shut down the government to do it.
No Ted Cruz in the Senate? President Obama would long ago have had a signing ceremony at the White House to celebrate the passage of Manchin-Toomey’s gun control provisions.
No Ted Cruz in the Senate? The last year would have seen very different policy outcomes on immigration, perhaps Syria and definitely on Rand Paul’s drone fight.
And while on the subject, if Ted Cruz is the Man of the Year this does nothing to slight the accomplishments of Senators Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio. While the latter has stumbled on immigration, along with colleagues Paul and Lee, Rubio has mostly kept the faith with the conservative base of the GOP that elected him. All of these senators, every one of them still new to the Senate, has made a positive impact that far outweighs their length of service.
The very fact of their accomplishments, individually and collectively, speaks to what can only be called the shell-shocked nature of the always timid GOP Establishment. To say that the GOP — in this case considerable numbers of GOP senators — is shell shocked or timid is to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Just the other day, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made news when the Wall Street Journal revealed that McConnell was pitching as follows:
GOP Incumbents Lean on Donors to Beat Back Primary Foes
One source who was in attendance at the event cited was quoted as saying:
“The main message he was pushing was: Get involved, mainly to teach those who are primarying incumbents that it is not helpful to run against incumbents who are champions for the industry.”
The issue at hand here was defense — as if conservatives do not support a strong Reaganite national security policy. The real issue is that it is all too easy to believe McConnell is making this pitch to every “industry” in Washington, which is exactly how the nation wound up with a $17 trillion debt in the first place.
To go back to the question of what would have happened in 2013 if Ted Cruz had not been in the Senate one can easily ask another question, a question that Ronald Reagan himself use to raise when he said there were too many Republicans in the day who saw the GOP as a “fraternal order.”
How many of these Republicans who are out there overtly or covertly attacking Cruz and the Tea Party in fact really had no problem with Obamacare? Or gun control? Or amnesty and a lack of border security on the immigration issue?
The behavior of House Speaker John Boehner, the nature of the budget deal and too many backstage and not-so-backstage whispers to count raise the obvious question that Reagan raised. Are these people about a political party with bold colors — or a fraternal order with pastel colors?
The importance of Ted Cruz, the reason why Ted Cruz rates the choice of “man of the year” in this column’s corner is that Senator Cruz understands both principle and effectiveness.
And in understanding those two things, Cruz has in fact turned flat-out opposition to Obamacare into the political version of an appreciating asset. Note this story from Newsmax about Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett. Here’s how Newsmax headlines the tale about a Republican riding low in the polls:
Corbett to Make Campaign Referendum on Obamacare
That’s right. The Governor, whose polls are not the best, is going to use opposition to Obamacare to fuel his campaign. “All politics are local” went the maxim of the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill, a Democrat. True. In this case that translates as meaning Corbett’s situation is… Corbett’s situation. But there is no mistaking that the Governor and his team have surveyed the Pennsylvania political landscape and concluded that Ted Cruz’s gift of making clear outright determined opposition to Obamacare is nothing if not political gold — an appreciating political asset for every Republican everywhere.
Ted Cruz understands, exactly as his Texas predecessor Sam Houston understood, that he was not sent to the United States Senate to remain silent or shrink from the discharge of duty. He stands and speaks in spite of what Houston called “all the intimidations, or threats, or discountenances” — which in today’s 24/7 world of media is considerable.
That’s why Ted Cruz is so popular with the conservative Republican base.
“I will not yield those principles which I have fought for” said Senator Houston.
Neither will Ted Cruz.
Which is exactly why he is the Man of the Year.