Ted Cruz: The lowest of the low
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 20:10
In the circus of congressional politics over the last few weeks, there have been innumerable developments that seem to have weakened collective faith in American governance. The fact that we have to go through another round of debt ceiling negotiations is cause for pessimism, to say nothing of the fact that every debt ceiling fight has been more ridiculous than the last.
In the mire of delusion and recklessness currently engulfing the capitol, there is one thing that stands out as the point of absolute rock bottom: the epitome of everything wrong congressional politics. That thing is Ted Cruz. “Most insane character of a government shutdown negotiation,” a title once believed to be secure in the hands of Newt Gingrich, has been conferred upon the freshman Republican senator from Texas.
Like his predecessor, Cruz is a paragon of arrogance. While his party as a whole demonstrated their willingness to put their agenda above all responsibilities this week, Cruz takes that Republican characteristic to a whole new level. Shutting down the federal government over Obamacare, a law passed by Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court and signed by a president who was reelected after campaigning on it, was not enough. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, Cruz took it upon himself to educate the American public on his personal distaste for Obamacare in a 21-hour speech on the Senate floor.
In that time, he managed touch on Star Wars and Duck Dynasty, quote Ayn Rand, recite passages from the Declaration of Independence and accomplish absolutely nothing of substance. While the country moved a day closer to a catastrophic shutdown, Cruz read children’s books on live television in an attempt to raise his profile for a presidential race. He figuratively gave his party and the rest of Congress, or for that matter anyone toying with the idea of compromise, the finger. He also compared his fearless day of standing to the Bataan Death March. Cruz’s own pro-business values don’t even mean more to him than the attention he’s getting. The shutdown, should it go on long enough, has the potential to harm not just the U.S., but the global economy. The self importance involved in using a marathon speech on the floor of the United States Senate to slow progress on a major issue simply to elevate your position isn’t new, but this case was a new low for congressional hubris.
The Republican’s list of demands in exchange for their permission to fund the federal government – gutting Obamacare, ending environmental regulations and allowing the keystone oil pipeline to be built, among other things – should have been the most insane development in the shutdown negotiations. No Republican expected the Democrats to accept those terms; it was pure partisanship and stubbornness.
Cruz outdid his party in their ongoing efforts to get nothing done as loudly and ignorantly as possible. His 21-hour speech was not a filibuster and had no effect on the vote time of the legislation he spoke about. In fact, he voted to advance debate on the legislation he spent a day railing against. So he did virtually nothing to further his views except “raise awareness” (at this point, we are all very aware Republicans don’t like Obamacare), and brought the country closer to the shut down.
Cruz’s priority, however, was never averting the shutdown. He wanted to cause a scene and reaffirm his commitment never to compromise, another one of his party’s favorite moves. Previous government shutdown crises have featured abuses on both sides, but this time around it’s the Republicans who’ve been driving this sinking ship. Their complete failure to govern is seen by the “defund caucus” as a victory, or at least not a real loss. No one is sure what the Republicans and Cruz actually expect to gain from dragging the country into a shutdown. The Obamacare insurance exchanges opened on Tuesday, and opinion polls are showing that most Americans blame them for the shutdown.
For now, Republicans seem happy to blame Democrats and maintain that they made their point and did not bow in the face of pressure. Or, as the rest of the country sees it, they held firmly to their myopia and did not bow in the face of logic.