Thursday, October 31, 2013


This portrait of Ted Cruz by New Yorker film critic David Denby is getting some attention, primarily for this:
For months, I sensed vaguely that [Cruz] reminded me of someone but I couldn't place who it was. Revelation has arrived: Ted Cruz resembles the Bill Murray of a quarter-century ago, when he played fishy, mock-sincere fakers. No one looked more untrustworthy than Bill Murray. The difference between the two men is that the actor was a satirist.
But I'm struck by this:
[Cruz] speaks swiftly, in the tones of sweet, sincere reason. How could anyone possibly disagree with him? ... he's an evangelical without consciousness of his own sins or vulnerability. He is conscious only of other people's sins, which are boundless, and a threat to the republic; and of other people's vulnerabilities and wounds, which he salts....
And this:
His strategy is universal aggression, aimed at everyone. Well, not quite everyone -- lately, his popularity with the Tea Party cohort has increased. And at a recent rally at the convention of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, he was greeted with heated adoration. But normally Cruz resembles one of those war chariots with blades flashing from the wheels; he tries to cut up everything in his path. When things go wrong, he only sharpens the blades....
And this:
He has repeated this charge -- the betrayal, the stab in the back -- in many forms. He has been wronged, his cohort has been wronged, the American people have been wronged, traduced by weaklings and cowards in the ranks. In Cruz's rhetoric, the American people are always being wronged.
This isn't a description of Ted Cruz. This is a description of everyone on the modern right. Charging others with sinfulness while regarding oneself as utterly without sin? Check. "Universal aggression," except toward one's allies? Check. Ratcheting up the aggression and the rage after a setback? Check. (See: the rise of the tea party in 2009 after the GOP's 2008 electoral blowout.) A constant sense of being stabbed in the back? Check.

The fact that the modern right is like this -- and has been for a long time -- was clear to us angry lefties a long time ago, and is slowly beginning to dawn on some mainstream political observers. But far too many David Denbys -- people who don't devote a lot of their time to politics -- still haven't grasped the fact that the Republican Party has turned into an insane and radical rage cult.

Denby thinks Cruz is unique. He implies that if Cruz burns out or fades away, things will be a lot better. He doesn't get it.

When will every intelligent person in America finally realize what's gone horribly wrong with the right? That day can't come soon enough -- but it's going to be a long time coming.


Victor said...


And all that's true, Steve, but here's what Denby did that I think WILL be helpful:
Associating a well-known face with the new one.

Cruz-ader DOES look like Bill Murray!
At his unctuous, insincere-faking-sincerity, best - or make that, worst.

And sure, Cruz-ader looks a hell of a lot like Joe McCarthy!
But that was over 60 years ago, and non-political junkies will have to be reminded of who he was and stood for - if not, educated, outright, since his infamy took place so long ago.

So, Bill Murray!
Except, unlike the character he played in "Groundhog Day," Cruz-ader will never learn, and never improve his character flaws.

He won't - or can't - because in his own mind, he thinks he's flawless.

aimai said...

I agree with you, SteveM, that all this "discovery of the grifter evangelist" seems a little late to the rest of us. Surely Denby can't be ignorant of the reality that this shtick took over the GOP long ago.

But I wanted to also draw attention to this part, the Bill Murray comparison:

Ted Cruz resembles the Bill Murray of a quarter-century ago, when he played fishy, mock-sincere fakers. No one looked more untrustworthy than Bill Murray. The difference between the two men is that the actor was a satirist.

There's a reason Denby perceives the comparison--because Murray was parodying an already existing type, the lounge lizard, used car salesman, hail-fellow-well-met con man, the running to fat white guy with no real accomplishments other than the con or the stab in the back. Some styles remain viable, others become camp. Murray parodied the look and feel of that character while undercutting it (in movies like Groundhog Day) where that character gets his comeuppance. But that style continues to exist in the cultural backwater that is the Texas Republican party. Just look at the boss hogg types that are elected and re-elected in the Texas Congressional group? There's a style, an oleaginous businessman style which has never gone out of style there, like wide lapels or striped ties. Its part of the tribal identifying markers that work because the appeal is to a homogenous, retrograde, buyer (the southern/texas voter). Like bubble hairdos and ladylike pencil skirts it doesn't go out of fashion, it signals something comforting to the viewer.