The Ted Cruz Show (Hair-on-Fire Apoplexy)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) responds to the 2015 State of the Union address in an online video, 20 January 2015.

“As ridiculous as Cruz’s posturing seems, it’s important to remember the broader context: national GOP candidates have a built-in incentive to be as hysterical as possible right now, in the hopes of currying favor with the party’s base. Mild, reasoned disappointment with the court doesn’t impress far-right activists; unrestrained, hair-on-fire apoplexy does.”

Steve Benen

This is an obvious point, or, at least one might think.

Steve Benen points to his msnbc colleague Benjy Sarlin’s report Friday last detailing the 2016 GOP presidential reactions following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favor of same sex marriage:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) went so far as to call for a constitutional convention to overturn the court’s decision while campaigning in Iowa, according to CNN. In an interview with Sean Hannity he called the back-to-back rulings on health care and gay marriage “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.”

While the Texas junior is hardly the only Republican presidential candidate opting to skip out on posturing his response within the realm of general dignity, Mr. Benen responded aptly:

Hannity, incidentally, found Cruz’s rhetoric quite compelling, responding, “I couldn’t say it more eloquently.”

For what it’s worth, it’s not hard to think of some genuinely tragic 24-hour periods in American history. The Lincoln assassination comes to mind. So does the time British troops burned the White House. There were days during the Civil War in which tens of thousands of Americans died on the battlefield. Just in the last century, we witnessed the JFK assassination, Pearl Harbor, and a corrupt president resign in disgrace.

For the Republican presidential hopeful, learning that Americans will have health benefits and loving couples will get married belongs on the same list.

The thing is that Mr. Cruz is not entirely wrong; the rest, as Benen points out, is a matter of perspective.

There are, of course, other candidates to consider, and, indeed, other issues. The conservative pedant can certainly split hairs; while it is easy enough to note that Mr. Benen is skipping out on at least a couple of twenty-four hour periods, and also that this one was bookended by hard blows against conservative hopes, what the ever-melodramatic Rep. Steve King (R-IA05) apparently described as “the heaviest one-two punch delivered against the Constitution and the American people that we’ve ever seen in the history of this country”.Naota winces in sympathy as Ninamori suffers the effects of N.O. (FLCL ep. 3, 'Marquis de Carabas')

But such nitpicking misses the point. Consider the idea of liberalism. Consider what it means in these United States. Now look beyond the Democratic Party, which is hardly a bastion of liberalism, but, rather, a clodhopping chorus barely capable of holding the line.

From the time my political conscience activated, sometime around seven years old as it struck me that the seemingly nice man from Hollywood who wanted to be president was lying to me―there are other factors that stretch it out over the course of years, but there is a starting point, at least―it is true that I have never been witness to a period like this. Amid some of the strongest and most perplexing troubles witnessed through these decades, a string of days like these just haven’t happened.

But these are troubling and troubled times; our beloved America has paid a steep price, because the Lion did not lay down, and as the nation lurches forward in the wake of two landmark judicial decisions bettering American quality of life, we also stumble, falter, and leap blindly forward, teeth clenched against the hurt of what we have just given, because now―now!―we have a chance to drive the stake and put to rest the long-haunting demon that demands such awful sacrifices and so many lambs.

And while there is, as Benen notes, an important question of how the Senator from Texas intends to fight back against gay marriage―constitutional amendment? supremacist civil disobedience demanding the right to discriminate in order to be (ahem!) “equal”?―the question remains.

What, Mr. Cruz, is so goddamn horrifying and awful about the thought that homosexuals have human rights?

And, you know, none of us really like the Affordable Care Act; it was the conservative alternative to genuine universal healthcare. If it is really such an awful plan, then why were Republicans so intent on inflicting it against people until it became all a Democratic president could get? We must as Dylan Matthews points out for Vox, look to the future to justify the liberal side of the compromise:

Then, on March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. It wasn’t perfect by any means. It wasn’t single-payer; it lacked a public option, or all-payer rate-setting. And it still left many uninsured. But it established, for the first time in history, that it was the responsibility of the United States government to provide health insurance to nearly all Americans, and it expanded Medicaid and offered hundreds of billions of dollars in insurance subsidies to fulfill that responsibility.

In an email, UC Berkeley’s Paul Pierson likened the law to a “starter home” to be expanded later on, much as Social Security — which initially had no disability benefits, left out surviving dependents and widows, and excluded (largely black) agricultural and home workers — was.

Brian Steensland, a sociologist who studies American social policy at Indiana University in Indianapolis, agrees. “The main thing it does, I think, is establish the expectation in the public’s mind that access to basic health care is a right. It’s going to be hard to go back to a time when access to health insurance, and the subsidies to help pay for it, wasn’t near-universal.”

To pay for it all, the Affordable Care Act cut back on Medicare spending and hiked up taxes on rich people’s investment income and health plans. It effected a massive downward redistribution of income. It’s one of the most startlingly progressive laws this country has ever enacted.

And it was passed with more opposition than the social insurance programs it followed. “FDR and LBJ had lots of fellow Democrats in Congress when they pushed for the New Deal and Great Society,” College of William and Mary political scientist Chris Howard says. “Their opponents, in and out of government, were not nearly as ideological or hostile as the ones facing Obama. The fact that the ACA exists at all is pretty remarkable.”

And all of that so Republicans could stop what was originally their own plan. Was a time when that was the compromise: Mandate and subsidies in order to stave off single-payer.

Twenty Republicans, and two Democrats (Sen. Boren of Oklahoma, Sen. Kerrey of Nebraska) put their names to the HEART Act. Would Mr. Cruz and his Tea Party allies denounce Sen. Bob Dole as a Nazi? You know, as they’ve denounced the ACA and President Obama?

So while it is one thing to wonder if, really, the ACA is the sort of thing that really does compare to some of our worst days as a nation, there is also the strange question of whether Mr. Cruz really believes that Mr. Dole and his colleagues, such as Sen. Bond of Missouri, or Sens. Bennett and Hatch of Utah, were really all of that, too.

That is, did Mr. Cruz just suggest that the Republican alternative to single-payer was to advance one of the darkest and most sinister plots ever conceived against the American people?

But conservatives are not wrong about the fact of a one-two punch. As twenty-four hour periods go, the King and Obergefell bookends are beyond simply remarkable. But they also occur at a time when a certain distillation of liberal themes of justice are empowered to such a degree as I have never in my lifetime witnessed. Certes, I might chuckle at Mr. Cruz’s panic; human rights and health care equal dark days? But traditional conservative politics are in crisis right now, and, well, you know, it isn’t exactly hard to see why he panics.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Ted Cruz Show.


Image note: Top ― Unsatisfied by his congressional Republican peers, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), prepares his own response to the 2015 State of the Union address, 20 January 2015. Left ― Naota winces in sympathy as Ninamori suffers the effects of N.O. (FLCL ep. 3, “Marquis de Carabas”)

Benen, Steve. “Ted Cruz isn’t taking the marriage ruling well”. msnbc. 29 June 2015.

Sarlin, Benji. “2016 GOP hopefuls hit different tones in gay marriage response”. msnbc. 29 June 2015.

Matthews, Dylan. “Barack Obama is officially one of the most consequential presidents in American history”. Vox. 26 June 2015.

Chafee, John, et al. “S.1770 – Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993”. 103rd Congress, First Session. 22 November 1993.

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