Wednesday, April 06, 2016


Jamelle Bouie says that the GOP establishment has a good reason to fear Ted Cruz:
... there’s a reason Republican elites have kept him at arm’s length ... he is an avatar for a conservative faction of the Republican Party that wants to ascend to prominence. Attached to the Tea Party, rooted in institutions like the Heritage Foundation, and based in the deep-red South and the most conservative parts of the Midwest, this counterestablishment seeks to supplant the traditional power brokers of the Republican Party. And in Cruz, it has a candidate with the strategic mind and organizational prowess to make it happen.
But Bouie thinks the establishment should actually want Cruz at the top of this year's ticket -- he'd lose, you see, and then the fever would break (which wouldn't happen if Trump loses):
... if the long-term problem of American politics is a dysfunctional Republican Party that’s averse to compromise and the basic give-and-take of governance, then Trump is a less-than-ideal opponent. To the most conservative Republicans -- the counterestablishment that claims Cruz as its champion -- the real estate mogul is a black swan. If he loses, he loses, and they can get back to the business of claiming the party for themselves. And Cruz, if he runs again, will stick to his core message: that the Republican Party can win again if it nominates a “true conservative.”

The GOP establishment is right to fear and dislike Cruz, but, ironically, its best option for retaining influence is to choose him for its nominee. That would clip Cruz’s wings, and in the process marginalize a faction that has steered the GOP to an almost untenable position. We have reached a through-the-looking-glass phase of the election in which the smartest play is for Republicans to be good Leninists and heighten the contradictions within their own party.
I have my doubts about this.

First of all, the polls say that Cruz would lose to Hillary Clinton, but not by much (by 3 points, according to Real Clear Politics, whereas Trump would lose by 11). I think Cruz would run a no-compromise campaign (ban abortion without exceptions for rape or incest, crack down mercilessly on immigrants and Muslims, etc.), and that would drive a lot of people to the polls to vote Democratic -- but it's conceivable that he'll try softening his image and presenting himself primarily as a dorky dad and pop-culture nerd. If he can fool enough moderates into seeing him that way, while couching his nastiest policies in euphemisms, I think he has a not-trivial chance of winning. (I doubt he'll do this, but it could happen.)

But let's assume he loses, and loses as an unbending wingnut. Do you really think that will teach his most fervent backers a lesson?

Thy'll just say he could have won as a True Conservative, but the party hacks sabotaged him because they secretly preferred Hillary Clinton. I think they'll be more determined to vote for no-compromise candidates in the future. What's more, they'll try to scour the Republican ranks, looking for the traitors who sold Cruz out. They'll say "the people" were sold out twice, first by the #NeverTrump movement, then by the Cruz haters.

Yeah, I know: I just got through saying in my last post that Republican voters always do what the party hacks tell them to do. True -- but they always feel deeply betrayed afterward. And remember, in 2008 and 2012 they fell in line only after the hacks' choices had moved significantly to the right (John McCain reversed his support for immigration and campaign finance restrictions; Mitt Romney repudiated pretty much his entire term as governor). McCain and Romney may not have been wingnuts at heart, but they ran as wingnuts. The voters settled because they thought they could leverage the party's power for wingnutty ends. And this year the voters forced the party hacks to settle on Cruz rather than Bush or Rubio or Christie (or even Walker or Jindal).

Republican voters will always want a party that's averse to compromise. If Cruz loses in November, they're not going to learn the lesson that reasonableness would have worked better. They'll just conclude that they were sold out. Next time they'll demand a hardcore nominee and a hardcore party apparatus.


Victor said...

In 2020 or 2024, look for Sen. Tom Cotton to be the GOP nominee.

He's plenty wingnutty enough both politically and religiously!
And he's a veteran, and very young.

Plus, he's a traitor, since he tried to scuttle Obama's, Clinton's and Kerry's Iran deal. That alone, makes him a Wingnut hero for the ages!

No, I doubt that I'll see "Peak Wingnut" in my lifetime.
These psycho's keep spring out like mushrooms, all over the country.

Of course, mushrooms are smarter and more empathetic!
And as fungi, they're far more fun than the conservative guy's and gal's!!!

Steve M. said...

Oh, it'll absolutely be Cotton in 2020. Bill Kristol wants him on the ticket this year.

Victor said...

If Bill wants him, then Cotton's screwed!

Feud Turgidson said...

"If he can fool enough moderates"

I can't think of a single presidential election since I became aware of their existence where the so-called "moderate vote" is more of a Bigfoot than this one. Pew polls and exit polling from the primaries that use ballots are showing the most polarized general electorate since modern polling started. It's a mighty source of discouragement to conduct Americans-on-the-street civics pop quizzes, but at a certain point, surpassed way before we get to the numbers associated with presidential elections, not just presidential but all a lot of other national office elections tend to approach crowd-sourcing, thereby rendering sampling almost entirely irrelevant. And in such dynamics, what happens is a sort of political equivalent of herd immunity, where even the sliverish "moderate" vote aren't open to buying what the Canadian-born Jesus-fellating extremist a-hole is peddling.

Indeed, the whole 'go extreme to your party base' in the primaries, then shift towards the center in the general dynamic is awfully dubious in this information saturated age. In the days of the party-controlled nomination process, only a tiny sliver of the population was even remotely aware of what was said intraparty, so what was said after the conventions were thru was almost entirely what the average schmooe with any interest at all had to go on. Today we have stored videos going back into the 1960s and easily serachable databases of newspaper articles and profiles extending back a quarter century, to when the likes of Cruz were still sucking for judicial clerkships.

Plus, I actaully think the difference between animating the Dem base to come out strong as a prophylactic against a Cruz presidency is not materially more difficult than knocking off Trump, tho it will require somewhat different messages and tools. IMO Cruz is EASIER to portray as an existential danger to America than was Goldwater.

brother yam said...

Conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed.

Professor Chaos said...

When Goldwater went down to defeat, I'm sure people were saying the same thing. "That's the last we"'ll see of this extremist wing of the GOP." 10 years later, Ronald Reagan is President. Cruz losing by any margin will have zero effect on the right wing.

Professor Chaos said...

When Goldwater went down to defeat, I'm sure people were saying the same thing. "That's the last we"'ll see of this extremist wing of the GOP." 10 years later, Ronald Reagan is President. Cruz losing by any margin will have zero effect on the right wing.