The Futile Hero

Ted_Cruz,_official_portrait,_113th_CongressContrary to popular understanding, Senator Ted Cruz’s recent 21 hour speech on the Senate floor was not a filibuster. He was forced to yield when the Senate officially resumed its business around noon on Wednesday. Cruz therefore had no power to actually delay any discussion on the bill to keep government funding while de-funding the Affordable Care Act. Anyone paying attention to the slant of power in Washington can easily conclude that the bill will die in the Senate. So the question that immediately comes to mind is: Why did Ted Cruz spend so much time and effort speaking on the issue?

Many times in life, we see injustice. Many times we are not in a position to stop it. While reading the news about recent events in Syria, a sentiment of helpless pity wells up inside us. Something should be done to relieve the suffering and hardships of the Syrian people. But we as individuals can do nothing about the situation. We feel sad, but are ultimately powerless to do something without radically changing the course of our lives and probably abandoning our current responsibilities. This would be unethical and more than likely fruitless in the long run.

The Affordable Care Act is an unjust overreach of federal power. It has no constitutional justification and won’t even work the way it was originally envisioned. Yet because it is the signature legislation of the presidential administration, agreeing to remove funding would look incredibly weak and perhaps destroy the chances of whichever Democratic candidate eventually wins the party’s nomination in 2016. In short, President Obama must have his hand almost literally forced before he backs down on the law’s implementation. The Republican party, which controls only the House of Representatives, must therefore achieve the impossible by accomplishing two things. First, they must convince the Democrat majority in the Senate to pass their bill as-is. Then they must be able to rally the votes for a super-majority in the case of a quite possible presidential veto.

Given the current political climate, an attempt at these goals is certainly a fool’s errand. Or it would be without Senator Cruz. What is required for the House’s plan to work is a senator who will not look at the apparent hopelessness of the situation and do the right thing anyway. Senator Cruz, who is much criticized by the GOP leadership in the Senate, doesn’t have that much to lose. He also is fully capable of commanding one the largest platforms in the history of the world. And he demonstrated this fact quite adequately during his speech.

Whether or not that one speech miraculously convinces the required number of senators to change their minds about their vote, giving it exemplified what very few modern senators have: conviction. While possibly all of the Republican senators (and perhaps some of the Democratic ones) know that the Affordable Care Act is wrong, precious few are willing to expend political capital in an attempt to overturn it. From Senator McCain’s constant verbal criticism of Cruz, it is obvious where his values really are. McCain does not want to do anything risky that might damage his image. The Senate used to be one of the greatest political arenas, where accomplished statesmen would tirelessly work for their principles and their constituents. With the likes of McCain in office, it is now anything but a place of idealism.

What most senators don’t understand, or refuse to acknowledge, is that liberty and justice are highly impractical from a governmental administration point of view. Thus their implementation and continued status as revered institutions in this country requires a certain high-mindedness. Liberty cannot passively exist. It requires watchful vigilance that never rests. Senator McCain is perfectly at peace with letting his guard down as long as any particular bill doesn’t affect business as usual. The simple fact is that he has lost his way, and now lingers on in the Senate like a ghost without a mission. His actions and words do not illustrate any general mission other than staying in office as long as possible. He has forgotten his duty. The Republican party should be doing everything within their power to win the minds of the people and inspire a true debate over the issue at hand, not lazily allow it to continue.

Senator Cruz fully realizes this fact. While he will probably lose this round, the ruling party requires opposition. Ted Cruz isn’t worrying about his popularity, he is worrying about filling the incredible vacuum of ideals in the Senate. Even if no one else agrees with him, he speaks from his convictions, not his image. He has been called a “wacko-bird” for holding this personal policy. If actually standing up for what he believes in, and what got him elected in the first place, makes him crazy to the GOP establishment, then there are more issues with the party than just lack of unity.

The practical ramifications of Cruz’s speech will all be in the long-term. Right now, he is fighting a losing battle. As to the future, he is forcing the powers that be to come to grips with idealism of liberty and justice. He is reversing the tide of public officials who are more concerned with maintaining the status quo than standing for the values that will actually serve the country well. The Affordable Care Act may very well remain on the books for the time being, but now there is a rising understanding that good senators have the conviction to speak about their principles, even if it makes them look crazy or is occasionally futile in a strictly pragmatic sense.

Discussion — One Response

  • Don Stroud September 26, 2013 on 4:17 pm

    Saint Telemachus and the stone-throwing media.