What "Crazy Things" Is Ted Cruz (R-TX) Advocating Besides Racism?
Why not 100 Abe Lincolns? 100 Teddy Roosevelts? 100 Dwight Eisenhowers? Not a chance! Those great Republicans were do not come from the same nihilistic, anti-government and anti-democracy wing that is dominated by Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert and Jim DeMint, the GOP politicians that are driving today's party further and further from the mainstream of American political thought. Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower are celebrated by all normal Americans as genuinely crucial historical figures. None of them would recognize Ted Cruz's GOP and all of them would probably feel sickened by Cruz's virulent-- if implied-- racism in his celebration of a divisive, even monstrous, figure like Jesse Helms. I sense Cruz-- like his father-- is a vicious racist and a dangerous elitist. But I have no way of really knowing that. But we do know a lot about Helms, covered beautifully by Chris Hayes in the video up top. And, as Jamelle Bouie, pointed out at yesterday's Daily Beast, Helms' bigotry was anything BUT an obstacle "to his ascendance in the Republican Party."
Helms was a pioneer of the conservative movement; as a vanguard of the evangelical right, as a promoter of direct mail strategies, and as a scorched-earth strategist who won by mobilizing his base and demoralizing his opposition. The Helms approach was crude-- it relied, almost exclusively, on race- and gay-baiting-- but it worked. You can draw a fairly straight line from Helms to Karl Rove, who tamed and adapted the approach for a national audience.
The same goes for the Helms and the Tea Party, which shares his deep hostility to government-- with fanatical opposition to spending on nearly everything but benefits for themselves-- and international cooperation.
One thing, however, is worth noting about Helms, his strategies, and his priorities; at no point was he able to win more than 54 percent of the vote, with a median performance-- out of five elections over twenty-four years-- of 52.6 percent. And of course, his support was almost exclusively white.
In other words, you can win with a base mobilization strategy, but it leaves you vulnerable to demography. As soon as your voters drop as a share of the electorate, the game is over. Which is what happened to Helms's successor, Elizabeth Dole, who lost her 2008 reelection bid to the young, multi-racial coalition of Kay Hagan. Which brings us back to Ted Cruz.
His pitch to Republicans is straightforward. It's not that America rejects your ideas or your principles, it's that we haven't done enough to apply them. The people want a conservative fighter, and if we slash government even more, we'll be rewarded with victory. Hence his strident disdain for the House Republican leaders who want to avoid a government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act. Cruz has sparked a near-rebellion among ultraconservative House members with his open attacks on a plan to "defund" Obamacare with a symbolic vote, and pass a separate continuing resolution to fund the government.
But Cruz is wrong. The broad public has consistently voiced its opposition to the GOP's anti-government mania. In last year's elections, it didn't just reject Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan; it turned its back Republican candidates at all levels of government. The Jesse Helms approach to politics-- which Cruz exemplifies-- has been nothing but destructive to GOP prospects. It dominates the House of Representatives, where far-right conservatives dominate the GOP caucus, and cost Republicans a Senate majority in two consecutive elections. Indeed, the pattern of of legislative hostage-taking, debt ceiling threats, and endless confrontations is poised to do the same in next year's elections.
Simply put, the only thing the Republican Party has to gain from Ted Cruz and his brigade of Jesse Helms's is the complete collapse of its national appeal. Which is why, if I were working to preserve the future of the GOP, I would be looking for every way possible to sabotage Cruz before he-- and his acolytes-- do irreparable harm to the party.