As I write this, I am at a Wallbuilders conference in Dallas, where my husband is speaking. I have just come back to the room after hearing Ted Cruz. Do you remember the tense weeks back in 2000 when the Bush/Gore election was undecided? A Bush-supporting acquaintance of mine confessed that she and her Gore-championing friend agreed to cut back on their interactions until there was a decisive result. Both of their emotions were so raw that no matter how innocuously their conversations started, each ended up exasperated by the other’s political obtuseness.
Ted Cruz evokes the same kind of passion, though the division is between Republican and Republican, conservative and conservative rather than between blue and red voters. Over the past few weeks establishment Republicans, such as John McCain, have attacked Senator Cruz with intemperate and angry language, more suitable to describing the Boston Marathon bomber. Others who share Senator McCain’s party affiliation view Ted Cruz as a principled straight shooter, championing ideas that need to be aired.
Many respected and responsible pundits, including economist Thomas Sowell, seem to admire and like Cruz, but suggest that his move to defund Obamacare was poor politics. I usually come close to violating the 10th Commandment when I read Mr. Sowell’s articles because I covet his rare ability for articulating complex issues in a brilliant and straightforward manner. His writings are illuminating and instructive. However, in this case, I have a slightly different view than his.
I believe that it is irrelevant whether Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and those who stood with them acted brilliantly or with political naiveté or even stupidity. What matters is that they understand that the political landscape has changed—a fact that completely eluded Mitt Romney, leading him to lose a winnable election. Senators Cruz and Lee give voice to those who believe that there are two revolutions going on in the United States today. The first is characterized by President Obama and his staunchest supporters in the Democratic Party. If successful, it will undermine the traditional foundations of this country. The second revolution appeals deeply to those who fall under the sometimes disparate and conflicting umbrellas of Tea Party, Libertarian and/or ‘plain old disgusted,’ who may or may not be officially members of the Republican Party. These Americans have little faith or confidence in those they consider ‘Establishment Republicans’.
I think there are millions of Americans who see the Republican Party that nominated John McCain and then Mitt Romney, heading towards losing the presidential election of 2016. Even if the party does win the election, these citizens do not believe that will save the country they love. To keep America thriving, they see a need for bold, unapologetic leadership. They may vehemently disagree on the direction that leadership should take in regard to cultural, social and economic issues, but they are fed up with lack of conviction, timidity and always being on the defensive. A large number of citizens think that while bold, radical action may not work, incremental tweaking and hesitancy most certainly won’t.
I do not know very much about Mr. Cruz and Mr. Lee and I will cautiously follow their actions and statements. However, unlike those who vehemently condemn them, these men do understand that the ‘same old, same old’ is a losing strategy in a world that is rapidly changing. Revolutions are not compatible with back room negotiations that place practical politics ahead of overarching principle. Unless the establishment Republican Party recognizes and respects this widespread uprising, working with it rather than trying to delegitimize it, I worry for the future of the Grand Old Party.