Saturday, October 26, 2013


Ted Cruz is out in Iowa doing that stirring-up-presidential-speculation thing people like him do, and David Frum commemorates the moment with a piece -- Hunter at Daily Kos accurately labels it "fan fiction" -- about how Cruz can beat Hillary Clinton and win the 2016 presidential election.

In Frum's convoluted scenario, America slips back into recession between now and 2014. Elizabeth Warren goes on a populist crusade against the big banks, but Democratic base voters stay home in 2014 -- yet Warren's fiery words have "galvanized something in progressive Democrats." Warren becomes something she's never been, an attack dog against fellow Democrats ("I don't think we can auction our party's future to Terry McAuliffe's rich friends," she says on Rachel Maddow's show), and this leads to a primary fight with Hillary Clinton. She's not sufficiently inspirational to pull an Obama and beat Hillary in an upset, but she compels Hillary to tack so far left that Hillary leaves herself vulnerable to a challenge from the right-center.

Which is where, according to Frum, Ted Cruz comes in. No, seriously.

Frum never tells us precisely how Hillary "pivot[s] sharply left." Attacking the banks? (Yeah, that would be really unpopular with the general public, wouldn't it?) Or is it this?
President Obama listed immigration as agenda item number one in his 2015 State of the Union address, but Hillary Clinton went further. With her characteristic fierce energy, Clinton poured herself into the fight, chanting "Si, se puede" at rally after rally.
Um, David? Obama said "Si, se puede" on the 2008 campaign trail. I believe he won an election that year -- I'll look it up.

But wait -- I haven't told you the crazy part.

Cruz wins the GOP nomination as "the conservative choice." Then he falls asleep and is replaced by a sane, rational pod person who occupies his body:
Ted Cruz, however, could offer the vice presidency to Chris Christie -- and the Democrats' post-2014 leftward veer frightened Republican donors enough that they pressed Christie to accept. Unlike Romney in 2012, Cruz's conservative allegiance could not be questioned, freeing him to write the vaguest platform and conduct the most issue-free campaign of any Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988. Cruz delivered half his convention speech in Spanish and used the other half to rededicate the party to "the compassion of conservatism," a subtle variant of an old phrase that delighted convention delegates.
Oh, and Cruz takes a male lover sometime during the fall campaign. No, sorry, I made that part up. But it's about as likely as Frum's scenario.

Where is even the slightest evidence that Cruz would make nice in this way in order to win the White House? Right now, he's alienating rich establishment donors. He's alienating fellow Republicans. He is not exactly a go-along-to-get-along kind of guy. Sure, he wants to be president, but only if he can retain the title that clearly means more to him: President of His Base. Think Ron Paul, not Mitt Romney.

Besides, there's no evidence that Cruz has any appeal as a politician apart from his stance as a 100% pure conservative standard-bearer. Take that away and he has nothing. His base would shout "Betrayal!"

And (as I said a few months ago, when I had this argument with Jonathan Bernstein) it's not as if Cruz can erase his entire record with a few months of warm, fuzzy, "Kumbaya"-singing right-centrism.
In a field that's likely to include Rick Perry and Paul Ryan and Rand Paul and Scott Walker, and that may well include crazies like Rick Santorum and Allen West, how does Bernstein imagine that Ted Cruz is going to distinguish himself from the other candidates? By means of his sterling record of accomplishment in the Senate...? No -- he's going to distinguish himself by saying the most outrageous things, and proposing the most outrageous proposals. Is the record of those words suddenly going to vanish from the nation's databases once the general election starts? Is a Democratic campaign going to pass up the opportunity to hang Cruz's primary-season words around his neck? Or anything else outrageous he's said while in public life?
Pundits, please: stop this. "Moderate Ted Cruz" is like "bookish Sarah Palin" -- it's a concept that has no meaning on this planet.


And while we're at it, could you please stop writing about Elizabeth Warren as if she's an actual 2016 presidential prospect? She's not fund-raising furiously. She never goes to Iowa, or South Carolina, or even, as far as I know, New Hampshire, which is close enough to her home state that it's a daily commute for a lot of people. Beyond that, she's barely visible to non-New Englanders, apart from those who read the political-junkie press or watch MSNBC. The belief that she'll announce her candidacy any day now is the greatest mass delusion among respectable people since the Cottingley fairy photos.


Victor said...

Authoritarians, demagogues, ideologues, megalomaniacs, and polemicists, don't make for good moderate political candidates.

And the Cruz-ader ain't just ONE of those things.
He's ALL OF 'EM!!!!!

He wants things done his way, the Ted Cruz-ader way, goddamnit!!!

Palli said...

Pundits are usually storytelling fiction.

Danp said...

freeing him to write the vaguest platform and conduct the most issue-free campaign of any Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Frum knows people can read this, right? So what kind of person says, "yes, that's what America needs right now." By the way, I think both McCain and Romney outdid Poppy Bush for issue-free campaigns, at least in the sense that they were on both sides of every issue.

BH said...

As a native denizen of the largely benighted state of Texas, I hope that Perry & Cruz both run. Luckily, I don't think either stands the ghost of a chance of getting nominated. In-state, however, the internecine warfare among the R's would be at least vastly entertaining, & possibly helpful towards a weakening of their electoral death-grip. As a side benefit, such a competition would be sure to generate some truly psychotic quotes from both which the D's could use against any eventual R nominee.

Unknown said...

"His base would shout "Betrayal!"

This is the ONLY part of your post I don't (necessarily) agree with. They only shout "Betrayal!" when they've already got someone else's arms to run into. Who's that gonna be - Rand Paul? Ehh - maybe, but I doubt it. Mike Lee? He's thick and stupid and hateful enough, but is he thinking of running? I dunno.

Ed Crotty said...

It's really too bad the Sen. Warren is not in the running. I think she would be great.