Good morning Austin:
The political world, it seems, finds itself divided in two.
There are those who can imagine Ted Cruz being elected president – or at least being the 2016 Republican nominee – and those who cannot and will not allow themselves to contemplate that possibility. I am among the former, in part because every prediction of Cruz’s imminent political self-immolation so far has proved wrong, and because of how unhinged Cruz deniers tend to get in their denials.
Look, for example, at who the Daily News puts on its No, We Can’t Imagine front page.
The imagine meme was irresistible.
Here, courtesy Breitbart, are the 35 things Cruz asked his audience at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, to imagine. (Bravo Breitbart, but feel free to skim.)
- Imagine your parents when they were children.
- Imagine a little girl growing up in Wilmington, Delaware during World War II
- Imagine a teenage boy, not much younger than many of you here today, growing up
in Cuba. Jet black hair, skinny as a rail.
- Imagine for a second the hope that was in his heart as he rode that ferry boat across
to Key West.
- Imagine a young married couple, living together in the 1970s, neither
one of them has a personal relationship with Jesus.
- Imagine another little girl living in Africa, in Kenya and Nigeria.
- Imagine another teenage boy being raised in Houston.
- Imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison “we demand our liberty.”
- Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls
and voting our values.
- Imagine millions of young people coming together and standing together, saying “we will stand for liberty.”
- Imagine instead of economic stagnation, booming economic growth.
- Imagine small businesses growing and prospering.
- Imagine young people coming out of school with four, five, six job offers.
- Imagine innovation thriving on the Internet as government regulators.
- Imagine America finally becoming energy self-sufficient as millions and millions of
high-paying jobs are created.
- Imagine in 2017 a new president signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare.
- Imagine health care reform that keeps government out of the way between you and
your doctor and that makes health insurance personal and portable and affordable.
- Imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard.
- Imagine abolishing the IRS.
- Imagine a president that finally, finally, finally secures the borders.
- Imagine a legal immigration system that welcomes and celebrates those who
come to achieve the American dream.
- Imagine a federal government that stands for the First
Amendment rights of every American.
- Imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life…
- Imagine a federal government that protects the right to keep and bear arms of all
- Imagine a federal government that protected the privacy rights of every American.
- Imagine repealing every word of Common Core.
- Imagine embracing school choice as the civil rights issue of the next generation.
- Imagine a president who stands unapologetically with the nation of Israel.
- Imagine a president who says “I will honor the Constitution, and under no
circumstances will Iran be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
- Imagine a president who says “We will stand up and defeat radical Islamic
terrorism and we will call it by its name.”
- Imagine it’s 1775, and you and I were sitting there in Richmond listening to Patrick Henry say give me liberty or give me death.
- Imagine it’s 1776 and we were watching the 54 signers of the Declaration of
Independence stand together and pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred
honor to igniting the promise of America.
- Imagine it was 1777 and we were watching General Washington as he lost battle,
after battle, after battle in the freezing cold as his soldiers with no shoes were dying,
fighting for freedom against the most powerful army in the world.
- Imagine it’s 1933 and we were listening to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tell
America at a time of crushing depression, at a time of a gathering storm abroad, that
we have nothing to fear but fear itself.
- Imagine it’s 1979 and you and I were listening to Ronald Reagan.
Here’a a Cruz-Lennon mashup from the The Takeaway.
For what it’s worth, and in loving memory of John Lennon, here are the lyrics to Imagine, which, suffice it to say, would not qualify as an appropriate Liberty University anthem
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
Cruz might as well be borrowing from the socialist Internationale.
Call it the audacity of imagine.
From Michael Tyler at the Democratic National Committee:
Just imagine if Ted Cruz had his way: Imagine millions of Americans losing access to quality health care. Imagine another $24 billion government shutdown. Imagine a greater tax burden on the middle class. Imagine tax breaks for the wealthy and powerful corporations. Imagine an end to hope for immigration reform. Imagine abolishing the Department of Education and slashing Pell Grants. Imagine a president who won’t support equal pay legislation. Imagine a president who thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.
Imagining all of this makes one thing clear: Ted Cruz can’t be trusted to fight for hardworking Americans.
But, from Matt Lewis at The Week, an explanation about the thinking behind sampling Lennon, sort of.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Cruz’s speech, though, is how much it reminded me of Senator Barack Obama. I’m obviously not the first person to compare these two ambitious, young, Ivy-educated freshmen senators who spent roughly 15 minutes in the U.S. Senate before deciding to run for president.
But that’s not what I’m referring to. Obama’s message of “Hope and Change” was always premised on convincing voters who were desperate for something new and authentic to buy into the notion that he could change politics, unite the country, and appeal to his political enemies’ better angels. There was no rational reason to believe Obama could get this done, of course. He had no track record of governing or of transcending the old model of politics. People who bought into his cult of personality simply believed it would happen — that he was special and that change would come to pass simply by virtue of the force of his personality and the majesty of his soaring rhetoric.
Cruz is tapping into the same notion. During his speech on Monday, he said the word “imagine” 38 times by my count. That’s no accident. As Frank Luntz has wisely noted:
“Imagine” is still the most powerful word in the English language because it is inspiring, motivating, and has a unique definition for each person. When you want to inspire, imagine is the language vehicle. [Huffington Pos
Chris Matthews picked up on the imagine language.
Just picture it – it’s not hard – what the Republican debates are going to look like. Just like the Reverend Al Sharpton came to dramatize every Democratic presidential debate in 2004, Ted Cruz is going to do the same or more to the Republican get-togethers of 2015 and 2016.
He will be the center of the media coverage. He will control the conversation for the basic reason that he will be working the outside lane, the far right lane of conservative Republican rhetoric. He, Ted Cruz, will be the one quoted on the front page. And that’s what, starting today, the Republicans are going to have to look forward to.
So what a day for the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, a Republican party so positioned to the right it can’t find its way back.
Putting aside the fact that I don’t particularly recall Al Sharpton taking over the 2004 debates, Matthews becomes quite overwrought on the subject of Cruz, who, as on yesterday’s show, he describes, over and over, as Joe McCarthy incarnate, only maybe worse.
On yesterday’s panel Matthews was joined by the Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page – who described Cruz as “desperate” – the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman – who called Cruz “an angry evangelist,” and WAYNE SLATER.
It was great to see Wayne. He looked terrific. And it was left to Wayne to attempt to give Matthews the Moonstruck “snap out of it slap.”
Slater tried to explain to Matthews that Cruz draws strength from the attacks on him by the likes of John McCain and Peter King (and Chris Matthews), that it buttresses his narrative of himself as that one courageous man, standing against the powers-that-be, proclaiming, “I will not fold.”
I’m not sure it did any good
“He’s Christie without the bridge,” Matthews said.
Meanwhile, Fineman, writing at the Huffington Post, takes Cruz seriously.
Cruz beat the establishment in Texas like a drum. They hate him for it, but he is also going to raise a lot of cash in, yes, Texas.
He is as pure an across-the-board conservative as it is possible to find in what has to be regarded as the big leagues of politics: culturally, fiscally, in monetary policy, in foreign policy.
Cruz is triple 7s on the slot machine of issues: anti-abortion, a global-warming mega-skeptic, to the right of Likud on Israel, anti-immigration to the max, big on defense spending, etc.
He is a libertarian, traditional conservative, war hawk and evangelical Baptist son of a preacher who fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba. There are plenty of philosophical and tactical contradictions in Cruz’s construct, but he ignores them all.
His array of hot-button positions and his hunger combine to make him, on paper, a potential force in the early primary and caucus states, where true believers matter most.
He is an academic star with two Ivy League degrees.
Yet he is making the formal announcement of his candidacy at the Falwell family’s evangelical enterprise, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
At Liberty, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, they don’t teach evolution; they teach what their website calls a “robust, Young-Earth creationist view of Earth history.”
Cruz is an anti-intellectual intellectual, if there is such as thing. And that could be just perfect for the Republican Party of today.
At the Upshot, The New York Times offers its own dismantling of Cruz’s realistic chances, in Why Cruz is Such a Longshot.
In nearly every presidential primary, a few candidates attract a lot of news media attention even though they have almost no chance to win the nomination. Sometimes they even lead national polls or win states, but invariably their appeal is too narrow to allow them to build the broad coalition necessary to unite a diverse party.
Ted Cruz, the Texas senator and Tea Party favorite, who on Monday became the first candidate to formally enter the race, has seemingly been on track for this role since he first ran for the Senate in 2012. He is the darling of conservatives in a conservative party. But he remains a long shot, at best.
The most interesting question about Mr. Cruz’s candidacy is whether he has a very small chance to win or no chance at all.
The candidate with the most support from party elites doesn’t always win the nomination, but support from elites is probably a prerequisite for victory.
“A candidate without substantial party support has never won the nomination,” said John Zaller, a political-science professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and one of four authors of “The Party Decides,” an influential work on the role of parties in the nominating process.
In April 2013, he was identified as “The Most Hated Man in the Senate” by Foreign Policy magazine, which described him as “the human equivalent of one of those flower-squirters that clowns wear on their lapels.” And that was before he led the government shutdown. If you did a web search for “Senators Hate Ted Cruz” on Sunday, that Foreign Policy article wouldn’t have even come up on the first Google page. It was supplanted by titles like “Why Senate Republicans Hate Ted Cruz,” “GOP Still Despises Ted Cruz,” “Everybody Hates Ted Cruz” and the generously titled “How Unpopular Is Ted Cruz Right Now?” Answer: very.
Mr. Cruz is not an outsider, grass-roots version of President Obama in 2008. He is unacceptable to many conservative officials, operatives, interest group leaders and pundits. If they don’t take him seriously, voters won’t either. The elites would rally to defeat such a candidate if he ever seemed poised to win.
Just 40 percent of Republicans in an NBC/WSJ poll last month said they could see themselves supporting Mr. Cruz, while 38 percent said they couldn’t. That two-point margin in the plus column was the second worst among the elected officials who are thought to be major contenders for the nomination. Only Chris Christie fared worse.
(note: Oh, now I get it – Cruz is “Christie without the bridge.”)
Despite considerable national media attention, Mr. Cruz holds only about 6 percent of the vote in national polls. Early national polls aren’t exactly predictive of the nomination, but every presidential nominee since 1976 except Bill Clinton has reached about 15 percent of the vote by this point in the campaign.
The point isn’t that Mr. Cruz’s low level of support precludes him from winning the nomination. But he clearly hasn’t entered the race as the favorite of conservatives, and there isn’t much reason to assume that he will eventually become the favorite.
Closer to home, the Texas Observer’s Christopher Hooks offers a similar take under the headline, President Ted Cruz? Meh.
There are political reasons and policy reasons this is the case, as well as personal ones—are Americans really going to cheer for an Ivy League snob with an affinity for paisley bathrobes and Jesse Helms who hung a giant oil painting of himself arguing in front of the Supreme Court in his office?
But there’s a simpler reason to doubt Cruz: In almost every presidential election since FDR’s last re-election, Republicans have nominated the more moderate, business-minded candidate over an ideologue, with 1964 being the only real exception. (There’s 1980, too, but that’s something of a special case.) The conservatives who love Cruz are right: The donor class—the people who care a lot about estate taxes and not all that much about the gays—run the national party, more or less. Cruz is a Barry Goldwater in an era that’s not looking for one.
Well, paisley bathrobes are among the more vivid and disturbing images to emerge from wealth of Cruz profiles – though I’m not sure its of Romney-dog-on-roof-of-the-car caliber. But, as to that parenthetical special case, I am old enough to remember when Ronald Reagan seemed too far right to be a plausible president, let alone a man who would forever change the trajectory of American political history.
John Judis, co-author in 2002 of The Emerging Democratic Majority, recently wrote in National Journal a revisionist review of his own work. That emerging Democratic majority is now, he concludes, An Emerging Republican Advantage:
After the 2008 election, I thought Obama could create an enduring Democratic majority by responding aggressively to the Great Recession in the same way that Franklin Roosevelt had responded in 1933 to the Great Depression. Obama, I believed, would finally bury the Reagan Republican majority of 1980 and inaugurate a new period of Democratic domination.
In retrospect, that analogy was clearly flawed. Roosevelt took power after four years of the Great Depression, with Republicans and business thoroughly discredited, and with the public (who lacked any safety net) ready to try virtually anything to revive the economy. Obama’s situation was very different. Business was still powerful enough to threaten him if he went too far in trying to tame it. Much of the middle class and working class were still employed, and they saw Obama’s stimulus program—which was utterly necessary to stem the Great Recession—as an expansion of government at their expense.
In the wake of the dramatic gains Republicans have made during Obama’s presidency, I now read the history of the last 80 years much differently. The period of New Deal Democratic ascendancy from 1933 to about 1968 may well prove to have been what historians Jefferson Cowie and Nick Salvatore have called the “long exception” in American politics. It was a period when Americans, panicked about the Depression, put on hold their historic aversion to aggressive government economic intervention, when the middle and bottom of the American economic pyramid united against the top, and when labor unions could claim the loyalty of a third of American workers. That era suffered fatal fissures in 1968 and finally came to a close with Reagan’s landslide in 1980.
It now appears that, in some form, the Republican era which began in 1980 is still with us. Reagan Republicanism—rooted in the long-standing American distrust of government, but perhaps with its roughest theocratic and insurrectionary edges sanded off for a national audience—is still the default position of many of those Americans who regularly go to the polls. It can be effectively challenged when Republicans become identified with economic mismanagement or with military defeat. But after the memory of such disasters has faded, the GOP coalition has reemerged—surprisingly intact and ready for battle.
Cruz is testing the proposition whether, amid the rise of the tea party movement, there may be longing in the conservative movement for a return to its roughest theocratic and insurrectionary edges, albeit as brought to you to by a Princeton/Harvard anti-intellectual intellectual.
From the New Yorker’s John Cassidy, under the headline, Can You “Imagine” Ted Cruz as President?
The conventional wisdom is that Cruz hasn’t got a chance, and, as far as the Presidency goes, it’s probably accurate. To many Americans, he is the uppity loudmouth who, in the fall of 2013, less than a year into his first term as a senator, helped bring the federal government to a halt. Noted for railing against President Obama and denying the existence of climate change, he holds views that, according to an analysis by the Web site FiveThirtyEight, make him “more conservative than every recent G.O.P. nominee, every ’12 contender and every plausible ’16 candidate.”
But if Cruz’s ultra-conservatism rules him out as a serious Presidential contender, it won’t necessarily work to his disadvantage in the Republican primaries, where his first goal is to distinguish himself from other right-wingers who are leading him in the polls, such as Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Ben Carson. As Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich demonstrated in 2012, the conservative G.O.P. electorate is a fluid one, which falls for articulate rogues who can package age-old nostrums and prejudices in rhetoric that vaguely resembles a coherent political philosophy. Although Cruz is off to a slow start, this weakness should play to his rhetorical skills, which are superior to those of the rest of the G.O.P. field.
Most likely that Cruz intends to run as the Howard Dean of the religious right—a tub-thumping insurgent who uses social media to outmaneuver better-financed rivals. Speaking on Fox News, Joe Trippi, the Democratic strategist who ran Dean’s campaign in 2004, said after the speech, “I thought he did a great job.” Ed Rollins, the veteran Republican operative who was once Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager, was equally impressed. He raised the prospect of Cruz winning the Texas primary, which will take place next March, and emerging as a serious contender.
That’s looking a long way ahead, and Cruz has a lot of ground to make up. In the latest CNN/ORC poll of Republican-leaning voters, just four per cent of respondents picked him, placing him eighth in the G.O.P. field. But the Texan terror does have the first-mover advantage, and, for one day, at least, he made the most of it.
Cruz’s hopes depend on Iowa, and his choice of Liberty University managed to exquisitely target evangelical voters in Iowa without being so nakedly, narrowly focused as to have his announcement actually in Iowa.
Here is how his campaign debut was covered by Jason Noble in the Des Moines Register:
Ted Cruz launched his presidential campaign from Virginia on Monday with a message aimed straight at Iowa.
Cruz, a Republican U.S. senator from Texas, became the first person from either major party to formally announce a presidential candidacy with his speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
In style and substance, the announcement from an arena at the world’s largest Christian university made clear that Cruz intends to court evangelical and small-government conservatives — elements of the GOP base with outsize influence in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s staking his electoral prospects very clearly with Iowa’s tea party and evangelical electorate,” said former Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn. “The good news for Senator Cruz is that’s a large share of the caucus electorate. The bad news is there’s about a half-dozen other candidates who are going to be going after the exact same voters.”
Those other candidates could include past caucus winners Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, as well as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Ted and Heidi Cruz were interviewed by Matt Lauer on the Today Show this morning.
Here is a bio video the campaign put out.
And, Hannity devoted his full hour on Fox last night to an interview with Cruz.
From Bloomberg’s David Weigel:
To understate the matter, Sean Hannity is not the right’s toughest interviewer. The host of an eponymous Fox News and radio show is to Republicans what a warm log cabin is to the weary traveler—a place for a respite and relief from the harsh elements outside. It was fitting, then, or perhaps just comforting, that Cruz ended his first day as a presidential candidate with a meandering, friendly Hannity chat.
Cruz did reveal to Hannity that one of the reasons he chose Monday to announce his candidacy was that it was the fifth anniversary of Obamcare.
Cruz also said that, “When the New York Times says the Washington elites despise me, the only question is whether I have to report that to the FEC as an in-kind donation.”
Cruz said the mainstream media (of course not including Fox – “God bless Fox,” said Cruz) always portrays Republicans as stupid or evil. Reagan and and George W. Bush were stupid, while Nixon was evil.
“Stupid is better,” said Cruz, though he said he he took as a kind of backhanded compliment that they had identified a new category just for him – crazy.
Cruz said that answer for Republicans in handling the media is to make like Reagan.
“Reagan went over their head and went directly to the people.”
Cruz, who likes to do imitations, did a passable Ronald Reagan famously responding to a Sam Donaldson question at a White House press conference.
Here’s the original.