The status quo falls apart when people discover, first to their surprise, then to their glee, that it’s lost its teeth. The presidency of Barack Obama appears to be unraveling. Whether the yarn will be pulled out to the last inch remains to be seen, but a lot of it is already coiled on the floor. First the UK Parliament and then both parties of Congress balked at his Syrian policy. Then Putin humiliated him so badly internationally that he retreated to the safety of domestic policy.
But while resting between rounds, he was immediately beset by his own cornerpeople. Taking cynical advantage of his weakness, a cabal of Democratic Party activists rejected his candidate for the Federal Reserve, Larry Summers, and foisted on him a candidate of their own.
The liberal activists may have thought they had the exclusive franchise on defying Obama, but success breeds imitation. Once the hyenas see the lion is unable to resist, then more, and not fewer, pile on. Thus it was not long before Obama’s hatchet person in the IRS, Lois Lerner, announced she was retiring, probably hoping she would be forgotten in the confusion. There are even reports she is negotiating with investigators for immunity against prosecution.
But worse was to come. Obama, having sent Sultan Qaboos with a “penpal” letter for Rouhani, saw the Iranian leader respond by pointedly snubbing Obama, declining to meet him at the UN ”for lunch,” or to have even a handshake “encounter.” Rouhani boarded a plane home having refused to meet the president of a country he had just visited, and demonstrating to all and sundry you could beard the president of the U.S. on his own home turf without apparent consequences.
That was the context in which Ted Cruz started his long, filibuster-like speech in the Senate against Obamacare.
Cruz has trod on center stage and shouted the politically unsayable, probably having made the calculation that if there were a moment to defy Obama, that time was now. And as Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner writes, Cruz’s speech was also a play for the leadership of the Republican Party: if not for the GOP as an organization, then at least for the party as an idea.
For years, it has been led by what Tapscott calls “Arthur Larson’s policy of accommodation.” Cruz, by going very publicly out on a limb, by embarking on what in days past would be considered a “career ending” move, is betting that the policy of accommodation is ripe for the challenge:
The aim of Larson’s brand of Republicanism was to make peace with FDR, “to rationalize and reform the New Deal rather than repeal it.” Republicans would not repeal the New Deal, they would simply deliver it more efficiently than Democrats.
For better or worse, Larson distilled the essential inspiration for the moderate wing of the GOP epitomized by Nelson Rockefeller and Gerald Ford against the grass-roots populism of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
Senate GOPers who follow their lead will appear to be opposing Obamacare, but in reality will effectively be protecting President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.
Since the policy of accomodation is the dogma of the current Republican leadership, in toppling it Cruz will also have toppled them. Can he do it?
There is in Cruz’s flagrant transgression against the “norms” an element of risk. He is counting on “something in the air.” That something was typified by the flat refusal of a University of Wisconsin-Madison teaching assistant and Ph.D. student to attend a “diversity training session” and transgender awareness session, on the grounds that it was insulting and promoted perversion. He wrote:
I regret that this leaves us in an awkward situation. After having been accused of virulent racism and, now, assured that I will next learn how to parse the taxonomy of “Genderqueers”, I am afraid that I will disappoint those who expect me to attend any further diversity sessions. When a Virginia-based research firm came to campus a couple of years ago to present findings from their study of campus diversity, then-Diversity Officer Damon Williams sent a gaggle of shouting, sign-waving undergraduates to the meeting, disrupting the proceedings so badly that the meeting was cancelled. In a final break with such so-called “diversity”, I will not be storming your office or shouting into a megaphone outside your window. Instead, I respectfully inform you hereby that I am disinclined to join in any more mandatory radicalism. I have, thank God, many more important things to do. I also request that diversity training be made optional for all TAs, effective immediately. In my humble opinion, neither the Department nor the university has any right to subject anyone to such intellectual tyranny.
In days gone by that student’s academic career would have been terminally over, his Ph.D. dreams finished. Now, one is not so sure. From the highest councils of government to the humble classroom, is there something in the air? That remains to be seen.