Texas GOP Senate nominee Ted Cruz differed little from his opponent ideologically,… (Pat Sullivan / Associated…)
Tea partiers are fed up with the status quo and demand change. So they elect people like Texas GOP Senate nominee Ted Cruz, who by emphasizing his own unwillingness to compromise ensures that nothing will change and that Congress will remain at least as paralyzed and powerless as it already is for the foreseeable future. Great move, Liptonites.
The come-from-behind victory by Cruz in a Republican runoff election Tuesday against Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is being widely hailed as another sign not only of the tea party's political might, but its disdain for establishment Republicans. Both are certainly true. But I suspect future political historians will look back at victories like Cruz's -- and those of other conservative pit bulls against purebred Republicans in such states as Delaware, Nevada, Utah and Florida -- as the early stages of the spread of a kind of political nihilism, a philosophy that bears the seeds of its own destruction.
Which is to say, the thing that's new about the tea party isn't its fundamental opposition to taxes, which has been a GOP plank for decades, or its opposition to abortion or gay rights, or its support for the 2nd Amendment, or its distrust of big government. In the battle between Cruz and Dewhurst, it was often tough to distinguish the two men on such ideological terms, since their opinions were identical. The only notable things that set them apart were their backers -- with Cruz being the clear tea party favorite -- and their rhetoric about compromise, with Cruz being adamantly against it while Dewhurst, like all establishment politicians, had to run against a record of sometimes reaching across the aisle. And that really gets to the heart of what the tea party is about: sticking to an ideological opinion and never giving an inch.
It's already abundantly clear where this philosophy leads. Congress, and in particular the Senate with its rules that prevent the majority from running roughshod over the minority, is a deliberative body in which neither party typically has the strong majority needed to run matters, making compromise essential. Without it, you get a Congress that argues endlessly while accomplishing nothing. Apparently, it is the hope of tea-party conservatives that their movement will become so strong that it will sweep away not only establishment Republicans, but the Democrats who would stand up against them. That isn't going to happen. What will happen is that the intransigence of the newly reinvented GOP will increase the intransigence of Democrats, ensuring neither party will ever give way on anything. The result will be to strengthen both the executive and judicial branches of government while leaving the legislative branch out of the loop, ravaging a balance of power that has worked well for more than two centuries.
If any of this sounds familiar, it's of course because it is exactly what has been happening since the tea party surge of 2010. It's about to get worse. Eventually, people will figure out that they've subverted the will of the Founders and rendered their own government dysfunctional, and the establishment "compromisers" will be back. Until then, we'll take our tea with lots of lumps.