Sen. Ted Cruz’s stand on the Senate floor has officially concluded after twenty-one hours and nineteen minutes, cementing his speech’s place as the fourth longest in the history of the US Senate. More importantly, Sen. Cruz’s speech has solidified his place among the GOP’s emerging young leadership.
His speech began at 2:41pm on Tuesday afternoon with seven simple words: “I rise today in opposition to Obamacare.” It was a sentence that, given the American public’s significant opposition to the president’s 2010 healthcare overhaul, ought to be a rather unremarkable, commonplace utterance from Republican lawmakers. And yet, it was a move that set the good senator at odds with the Republican Party’s established leadership and crumbling consulting class, both still clinging to outmoded forms political strategizing in the wake of two consecutive presidential defeats.
For the twenty-hours that followed until the beginning of a new legislative day at noon Wednesday, Sen. Cruz (TX-R) distinguished himself as a principled statesman, an effective communicator of his principles, and a masterful manager of public opinion. Throughout the night and the morning, Sen. Cruz denounced Obamacare for being the unfair, disastrous law that it is. He unabashedly censured the proponents of Obamacare for their true, eventual goal – the socialization of American healthcare. He explained both the fairness and the practicality of free market healthcare compared to Obamacare. Piece by piece, he challenged and defeated the long-standing myth of the Democratic Party that social welfare policies are actually in the interests of traditional Democratic constituencies, such as the poor, Hispanics, blacks, and young people.
He rejected the notion that simply because the Republicans only control one-half of one branch of the government, they must compromise their principles at the demands of the Democrats. He redirected accusations that the GOP was trying to fiscally shut down the federal government, placing blame squarely on the Democrats who would reject the House-passed bill to defend a poor law.
Even more significantly, he criticized the “go along to get along” attitude of his own party, equating a vote for cloture on either Friday or Saturday (which would allow Democrats to amend the House-passed bill with a simple, fifty-one-vote majority rather than the usual “super majority”) with a vote for Obamacare. Unlike Sen. Rand Paul (KY-R) who was not and could not have been aware of the social media explosion his own filibuster caused until Sen. Mike Lee (UT-R) brought #StandWithRand tweets to the Senate floor, Sen. Cruz and his staff planned ahead. He initiated a #MakeDCListen campaign on social media, calling upon voters to contact their Senators to oppose cloture, flooding Senators’ offices with phone calls and e-mails:
— Saxby Chambliss (@SaxbyChambliss) September 25, 2013
Perhaps most impressive from a cultural perspective was Sen. Cruz’s repeated quoting of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead during his speech – a more than welcome sign of a continuing intellectual shift on the right towards a rational philosophy. “Now let me encourage any of you who have not read Atlas Shrugged,” stated Cruz, “to go tomorrow, buy Atlas Shrugged, and read it.” Such a call to arms makes his following claim that “we are living in the days of Ayn Rand” more poignant than perhaps even he intended – not just that we are living at the cusp of that dystopian world Rand warned us about, but that her philosophy is at last taking hold in the minds of our nation’s statesmen.
Sen. Cruz and his allies like Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Mike Lee are very rapidly displacing the old guard of the GOP, as they have realized something that the Republican Establishment has not: principle wins. True, it does not seem likely that Sen. Cruz’s efforts will result in the defunding or the repeal of Obamacare until the Republicans gain control of the Senate and the White House, but while the GOP retreated from principle – let alone capitalist principles – during the Romney campaign, Cruz, Paul, and Lee are sprinting towards it. Not only is it morally right that they should do so, but – as Sen. Cruz has come to realize – it is politically expedient.
Nearing 11:30pm on Tuesday, Sen. Cruz was challenged by one of his Democratic colleagues. If the American people were truly against Obamacare, the Democrat pondered, why then did President Obama get reelected, while Mitt Romney who opposed Obamacare did not? Sen. Cruz retorted that if Mitt Romney opposed Obamacare, it certainly was not one of the central points of his campaign. In 2010, he noted, Republicans campaigned all over the country in opposition to Obamacare, and doing so produced a massive partisan swing in favor of the Republicans in Congress. In 2012, the GOP backed away from the issue, and consequently failed to retake the Senate and the White House.
That alone makes Sen. Cruz a brighter political mind than any of the right-wing talking heads who believe in pursuing one’s goals, it is prudent to give them up. It makes him a better organizer for his party than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY-R) or Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH-R). It makes him and those like him, more than any smarmy College Republicans parroting the GOP old guard, the future of the Republican Party and of the United States.
We commend Sen. Cruz and his allies for their stand against Obamacare. We commend them for their stand on principle. This particular battle may not defeat Obamacare, but if Obamacare is to be defeated – if America is to change its course away from impending socialism towards capitalism – more battles like this will have to be fought, and more statesmen like Ted Cruz will be needed to win them.