In Defense of the Senate Revolt - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
In Defense of the Senate Revolt

Never has the fundamental flaw of Ratchet Republicanism been more perfectly illustrated than in this Washington Examiner editorial that appeared after Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee led a revolt in the Senate over the weekend. The editorial, headlined, “Senate Republicans need to decide whether they’re led by McConnell or Cruz,” said:

Every army has disagreements among its leaders, but they must agree on tactics to effect their strategy. Every football team must agree on the next play if it is to work. In the Senate, caucus leaders are chosen precisely to make such decisions. The weekend’s events demonstrate that some Republicans are not playing on the same team. This was not a simple, common occurrence of senatorial independence, but rather open defiance of caucus strategy — a decision by junior officers that their own tactical decisions take precedence over those of generals who were chosen for the job.

When this happens, games and battles are lost. Before Republicans take the majority in the Senate next month, they should make up their minds about who is in charge. Otherwise, they face the prospect of losing again and again.

Say what? Losing again and again? One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the thought that after decades of establishment “victory” the country is $18 trillion in debt and the government more bloated than ever. Now Republicans have, over the last few days, openly allied themselves with President Obama and conceded the power of the purse for half of the entire next session of Congress in which they will hold majorities.

This is a pluperfect example of what we have already discussed in this space more than once. That would be what Margaret Thatcher called the “socialist ratchet.” As she wrote of her own Conservative Party:

I could not help noticing a curious discrepancy in the behavior of my colleagues. What they said and what they did seemed to exist in two separate compartments. It was not that they consciously deceived anyone; they were in fact conspicuously honorable. But the language of free enterprise, anti-socialism and the national interest sprang readily to their lips, while they conducted government business on very different assumptions about the role of the state at home….Their rhetoric was prompted by general ideas they thought desirable, such as freedom; their actions were confined by general ideas they thought inevitable…

Almost all the policies hawked by ‘practical’ men on ‘pragmatic’ grounds turned out in the end to be highly impractical. Yet this fact never seemed to dent their enthusiasm…

In fact, this is exactly what was on display with House and Senate Republicans this last week.

Over at the Daily Caller, columnist Matt Lewis hails the Examiner, citing one of my columns in which I discussed the “ruling class” Republicans’ attack on Delaware conservative Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell. Now writes Lewis of Ted Cruz, who might be described as Margaret Thatcher in pants:

The impulse to applaud a politician who embraces the cult of action is understandable, but should we make a hero of the guy who wants to win the football game so much he accidentally scores a touchdown for the opposing team?…

I’m interested in the way politicians can frame obvious losses as victories, and the way their fans now live in a sort of alternative universe — a state of willing denial — where the very facts are in dispute. This works, partly because of an infrastructure. While many of Cruz and Lee’s boosters are grassroots conservatives who are fed up with Washington, others are professional conservatives who exploit this “game” for profit (or simply because it’s part of their branding shtick).

Got it. We’re professional conservatives who are in this for the money. But all those K Street Republicans who have their hooks into Thad Cochran’s career as Senate Appropriations Big Guy? Naaaah. No profit motive there.

And the business of how Cruz “accidentally scores a touchdown for the opposing team”? This is what establishment Republicans do every day, all day. It is precisely why Ronald Reagan called them “fraternal order” Republicans. 

Yet Lewis goes on to complain:

In any event, the larger problem is that if conservatives are afraid to say “the emperor has no clothes,” then we will continue rewarding the wrong things, which means conservatives will continue losing. Is it wise to look the other way? It doesn’t do much good to pretend that the touchdown counts for your team when it was scored in the wrong end zone, but what if even after watching the game film, we still decline to tell our star player he cost us the game?

This raises a question: Who cares more about something, the guy who ignores its faults or the guy who wants to address them? An animal lover will get his dog to the vet the minute he turns away from his kibble. The car lover won’t ignore that pinging sound because he loves his Ford Mustang too much to say something about it. The coach or sports commentator who ignores the botched play makes it more likely the offending player will do it again. Yet, in the conservative movement, blind loyalty seems to be demanded. It’s ironically a form of protectionism. Of escapism.

For now, the choice is to either speak out and be beaten down, or to remain silent. Of course, as was the case with the O’Donnell criticism, intellectually honest commentary tends to look much better in hindsight. But at the time, daring to question even a given strategy or tactics employed by the conservative darling of the moment is fraught with danger.

Kudos to the Examiner for a profile in courage. Kids, don’t try this at home.

Well, I’m all too happy to say “the emperor has no clothes.” Which is to say that there are far too many members of the GOP in the House and Senate who have sold their souls to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to out-and-out crony capitalists and corporatists. To think that there’s no coincidence between the GOP Senate and House caving on amnesty and the Chamber’s support for amnesty is frankly preposterous.

Critics of Cruz and Lee complain that the pair’s move has given Harry Reid an opening to push through a slate of up to 23 of Obama’s appointees. Lee answered that point specifically on Fox this morning by saying in response to questions from Bill Hemmer: 

Lee: That’s not true, that’s not true. Look this is an outgoing Democratic Senate Majority Leader. It would have been political malpractice for him to adjourn for the year without getting these things through.

Hemmer: That includes the Surgeon General?

Lee: Correct. 

The GOP complaint about Harry Reid is that he regularly manipulates Senate rules. He is, after all, the Senate Majority Leader who triggered the so-called “nuclear option” that forbade filibusters for most presidential nominees. So why exactly, in the waning days of his power as majority leader, would Reid not do everything in his power to confirm every last Obama nominee?

This is typical timid acquiescence to the socialist ratchet. Find an excuse…any excuse…and give up. 

The goal here is to win the day for limited government — and that goal will never be achieved when your own side is deliberately sabotaging the team. Hence the need for conservative Senate candidates — Christine O’Donnell over Mike Castle or Ted Cruz over David Dewhurst or Rand Paul over Trey Grayson or Marco Rubio over Charlie Crist. Yes, sometimes there will be losses. But make no mistake, better a loss to a liberal than a win with a faux conservative.

Barely a month after the November elections — elections in which every GOP candidate campaigned on repealing Obamacare — the Republican leaders of the House and the Senate fully funded the law for the entire first half of the next Congress. Senators like — to pick one — Pat Toomey of my own Pennsylvania put out statements like this one, made November 20th, on amnesty. (Hat tip: Brent Bozell, For America, and Heritage Action.) 

I strongly oppose the President’s latest overreach of his legal authority and his decision to dictate sweeping immigration policy changes without legislation. America’s immigration system is badly broken and cries out for reform, including stronger border security and adequate opportunities for legal immigration. Regrettably, President Obama’s unilateral and legally unauthorized actions will do nothing to fix our broken system, and could encourage even more illegal immigration.”

But Saturday night there was Pat Toomey on the floor of the U.S. Senate, reported by Breitbart to be “whipping” his colleagues to support the CRomnibus, which funds amnesty and funds Obamacare.

There is no excuse for this kind of thing, which has gone on long enough. This is why Reagan told Los Angeles Republicans, “We will have no more of those candidates who are pledged to the same goals of our opposition and seek our support. Turning the party over to the moderates wouldn’t make any sense at all.”

Reagan got exactly the reaction from the establishment that Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are getting now. His challenge of Gerald Ford was greeted with exactly the same reaction. Four years after Ford lost to Jimmy Carter the ex-president and was busy telling the New York Times that Reagan was too “extreme” to get elected. That November Reagan carried 44 states and clobbered Carter.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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