Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Jonah Goldberg draws several
interesting comparisons between Barack Obama and Ted Cruz, perhaps the most
interesting one being his last:
If Cruz's effort fails -- and I fear it will -- it will be for the same reasons that Obama's second term has been such a legislative dud. The way you bring change to Washington is through elections. After the elections, change comes from the unsightly process of consensus-building (aka sausage-making). Both Cruz and Obama have shown little interest in that approach.Goldberg had earlier made the point that both men see voter consensus (vis-à-vis consensus among politicians) as key to political change, and one of his points is that such consensus isn't enough to effect political change in Washington. Goldberg raises an interesting point with which I am inclined to agree: I think election results do define, in crude terms, how much change might be possible over the next few years.
That said, the piece leaves me a little bit dissatisfied. I think Goldberg could have made a distinction that he didn't make: between intellectual movements and voters organizing for a specific purpose. The "communities" organized by Barack Obama are full of collectivists who made up their minds long ago that the government should be running everything. Cruz's Tea party is more of a mixed bag of people who oppose the results of collectivism, but not in an intellectually consistent manner. And the American public currently, in terms of political philosophy, is indifferent/vaguely in favor of the government taking care of things. Intellectually, the cards are stacked in favor of Obama: Whatever kind of "sausage-making" is tolerated will reflect that. I think Obama knows this and Cruz either doesn't, or he overestimates how pro-individual rights Americans currently are. It may well be that neither man appreciates sausage making, and that thwarts each to a degree, but that makes cultural change no less important in achieving political change. Given America's current cultural climate, Barack Obama can better afford to be a lousy sausage maker.
The real lesson to be drawn from Cruz's overreach isn't just that he needs to hone his political skills: It's that he needs to understand where the culture is right now and how to change where it is for the better.
9-27-13: Corrected a misspelling.