Alex Saitz-Wald at Salon writes an entertaining "let's you and him fight" story contrasting two Tea Party Senate leaders, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.
Some excerpts and comments:
The National Review notes that “Cruz is rapidly becoming one of the most public faces of the [Tea Party] movement,” a status he had earned even before even getting elected. Last summer, he was feted in a massive arena-filling, Glenn Beck-headlined, Freedomworks-sponsored rally for his election in Dallas. “There is a great awakening that is sweeping this state, that is sweeping this country,” Cruz told the assembled masses. “New leaders who will stand and fight for liberty.”....
The rapid ascent of the well-spoken Cruz has pleased many conservative activists hungry for more. “We salute you, Senator Cruz, and we’re calling for backup,” a much-shared RedState post read.
But it may not put any smiles on the face of Sen. Rand Paul, who is himself trying to become the de-facto leader of the very same movement and who helped get Cruz where he is today.
Endorsements from the Kentucky senator and his congressman father, Ron Paul, were critical in a primary race where the GOP establishment lined up against Cruz and behind Texas Lieutenant Government David Dewhurst, an arch-conservative whom the Tea Party nonetheless made out to be a moderate. But Cruz didn’t return the favor by endorsing the elder Paul’s presidential bid....
And while other Paul-endorsed candidates like Utah Sen. Mike Lee have kept a fairly low profile after getting to Washington, Cruz has been eager to upset the apple cart, threatening to upstage or even supplant the man who helped bring him there. He’s been called the Ivy League Marco Rubio and the Republican Barack Obama, but perhaps a better epitaph would be the Purer Rand Paul.
Cruz is certainly trying to fill a specific space in Republican media/fan culture, the belligerent loudmouth against whatever the Enemy (the Obama administration) is for, for war and giving it to immigrants good and hard.
That's a great radio space and will doubtless earn Cruz many fans. But contra Salon, while that makes him a "pure" something or other, but not "purer" than Rand Paul about that quaint concept Cruz is quoted as standing for--"liberty" or even a part of liberty Tea Partyers are supposed to value, shrinking government size and expense. Given the expense of war and immigration enforcement--especially the cost in liberty of needing your government-issued papers to get job--Rand Paul is purer on any actual ideals that supposedly attach to the Tea Party label, if not the often unfortunate sociological team playing sometimes attached as well.
There's a big point about Paul too many people miss, weirdly given his father Ron Paul's career: he's not just a super-right-winger; his libertarianism is a distinct thing, that sometimes matches standard red-meat GOP feelings and sometimes does not.
Seitz-Wald is at least intelligent in analyzing the Republicans' national 2016 future in ideological terms, even if he isn't always clear on what the ideas are. The New York Times on Sunday spent many thousands of words by Robert Draper talking GOP troubles and front ending it all about technology, and the Republicans' inability to swing Reddit and online ads effectively to their side.
This is part of a general attitude about political messaging and ads that feeds worries about "money in politics," the implicit assumption that if you pay a lot of money and use the right tools you will get people to vote for you, regardless of your message.
Later Draper gets to narrating a focus group where people slam Republicans for their outmoded social views and concludes that "No one could understand the G.O.P.’s hot-blooded opposition to gay marriage or its perceived affinity for invading foreign countries." He then spends time with people who think of themselves as moving the GOP to a more viable future by not caring about gay marriage but are still obsessive hawks.
Draper quotes an unnamed GOP digital consultant:
And almost to a person that I’ve talked to, they say, ‘Yeah, I would probably vote for Republicans, but I can’t get past the gay-marriage ban, the abortion stance, all of these social causes.’ Almost universally, they see a future where you have more options, not less. So questions about whether you can be married to the person you want to be married to just flies in the face of the future. They don’t want to be part of an organization that puts them squarely on the wrong side of history.”
Politics is not just about communicating--it's about communicating something people want to hear. Libertarians of the Rand Paul variety have a different challenge, though his father Ron embraced it more openly--educating more people to want the views they are selling.
Despite much recent chatter that acts as if digitial communication tools or some irreducible facts of ethnic or gender identity that have non-white-men leaning against the GOP are eternal and unchangable, that sort of ideological change can happen to ethnic minorities and the web savvy as much as to anyone else. But whether they get better at tweeting and redditing or not, the Republicans won't do well in 2016 unless they seem to be facing the issues and challenges of that era--which are likely to be problems caused by government overreach, foreign and domestic, and not solvable by getting people mad at Obama, gays, overseas Muslims, or immigrants.