Op-ed: The Cruz crusade

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, December 15, 2015 6:38pm
  • Opinion

Even though to his opponents Ted Cruz may appear to be a facile, self-promoting demagogue, they make a huge mistake if they try to discredit him by emphasizing the argument that so many who know him simply can’t tolerate him. That’s a plus to the millions who are fed up with the incompetent corruption of our politicians and oligarchs who have brought this nation down, the fact that our rulers don’t like him is reason to like him.

Those who consider him a self-aggrandizing jerk are really mostly the other self-aggrandizing jerks who have carved out a cushy life for themselves by frittering away other peoples’ money with their ineptitude and dishonesty. Or they’ve hoarded ill-gotten gains with their chicanery — which is just a polite way of saying “fraud” and “theft,” activities that would be considered unlawful acts except that the perpetrators have bought and paid for the lawmakers.

Nevertheless, just because he sticks it to these bad guys doesn’t mean he’s sticking up for the good guys. He’s sticking up for himself, always, but he’s managed to cobble together a strong campaign, appealing to the worst instincts of the ultraconservative social conservatives who would deny a full, free American life to those who dare to be different. Gay rights are just one example. Cruz aggressively promotes a hater’s agenda.

This may sound like a familiar description of Donald Trump, but many worry that Cruz is even more dangerous because he’s much slicker than The Donald. The Ted manages to spew his regressiveness with a smile on his face, like the son of a fire-breathing preacher he is; Trump breathes his fire with a scowling nastiness that appeals to the millions of people who would rather upend the status quo with ignorant invective rather than think out effective action.

Cruz is making it a tactical point to not pick fights with his opponents, particularly the more far-out ones — the Carsons, the Huckabees and the Trumps — because of a strategy that’s built on his stealthily rising in the polls while waiting for the others to crater. He wants to avoid antagonizing their devoted followers, leaving the door open to swoop in as their Plan T.

Meanwhile, he is able to manipulate the hard-liners in Congress, goading them, for instance into embarrassing themselves by going down in flames over Obamacare. Remember when the government last shut down and the Republicans were so discredited? That was his handiwork. Yet when the chagrin subsided, he was still there to tout himself as the uncompromising conservative. Never mind that compromise is the name of the game in government, not just in Washington, but anywhere in a democracy. The people he wants to attract are the ones fed up with all the dealing that has dealt them one bad hand after another.

Many experienced Democrats are already focusing on the fact that Ted Cruz is quickly rising in the polls, and they’re thinking about Cruz-control strategies if he’s the GOP nominee. They want to make sure Americans know just how harsh his policies are, so out of the mainstream. They would have reason to argue that he would make this a theocracy, governed by whatever you want to call a Christian form of sharia. They would find fertile ground in his reputation for an opportunistic, cheap-shot approach to politics.

But they will make a mistake if they emphasize the number of people who consider him to be a royal pain. It doesn’t matter that George W. Bush told attendees at a fundraising meeting, “I just can’t stand the guy.” Let us not forget how many people can’t stand Bush 2. It’s not only Democrats; many conservatives feel he sold them out. This time around, we need an election not about who personally likes whom, but about how we like their politics. Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist.

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