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Monday, March 14, 2016

The Hollow Man

From HotGas.Net

For 26 years, Rush Lim­baugh has insisted that con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues, clearly and pas­sion­ately artic­u­lated, will win every time.  By con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues Rush meant:  God, coun­try, fam­ily, com­mu­nity, lib­erty, indi­vid­u­al­ism, per­sonal respon­si­bil­ity, lim­ited gov­ern­ment, and free mar­kets.  Rea­gan was the model, and the promise:  it had hap­pened once, and could hap­pen again.

Eas­ier said than done.

Year after year, can­di­date after can­di­date mouthed the plat­i­tudes, and botched the exe­cu­tion.  They could over­come nei­ther the oppo­si­tion, their own estab­lish­ment, or per­sonal foibles.  Yet year after year, fail­ure after fail­ure, Rush kept the faith, exhort­ing, cajol­ing, com­fort­ing, and dream­ing of the per­fect can­di­date.

In 2012, that can­di­date arrived on the national scene; and in 2016 he ran for Pres­i­dent.  Bril­liant, artic­u­late, prin­ci­pled, and tough, Ted Cruz couldn’t have been more per­fect had Lim­baugh molded him out of clay.  Unlike the breath­less ingénue Marco Rubio, who is so scripted you can see the hand in his back, Cruz was the real deal.  Seem­ingly impreg­nable, Cruz over­came tremen­dous oppo­si­tion, and sev­eral of his own mis­steps, to become a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge to the cur­rent front-runner, Don­ald Trump.

But Neme­sis will have his day.  In clas­si­cal Greek tragedy, the pro­tag­o­nist is brought down by his own flaws.  For the Greeks this was fate; it could not be oth­er­wise.  For us, it is the result of choice; every man, high and low, must make choices as he is con­fronted by cir­cum­stance.  Some­times those choices are mon­u­men­tal, and some­times they destroy us.  In order to avoid calamity, we must be self-aware enough to see how our own flaws are influ­enc­ing our choices.

For Ted Cruz, the cen­tral flaw is a malig­nant nar­cis­sism that erupts into con­de­scen­sion, intel­lec­tual arro­gance, and a sense of inevitabil­ity.  He is no longer car­ry­ing the mes­sage; he is the mes­sage.  That atti­tude, of course, leads to the mes­sage get­ting lost, as prin­ci­ple after prin­ci­ple is sac­ri­ficed to get the man into office, because that is all that mat­ters.

As the desire for power has swamped him like a tidal wave of sew­er­age, Ted Cruz has allowed GOP Inc. to hol­low him out like they’ve hol­lowed out the Amer­i­can econ­omy.  I never liked Ted Cruz, but I admired him, because once he laid down a posi­tion, he stuck to it.

Those days are gone.  Con­fronted by the Trump behe­moth, Cruz has adopted Trump’s posi­tions, even as he crit­i­cizes them.  The lat­est whop­per is a “tax” on imports, which is noth­ing more than the tar­iff that Cruz claims will wreck the econ­omy.  Last debate, between the Al Gore-inspired sighs, Cruz sounded like an ade­noidal Trump robot with the com­edy left out.  It was not pretty.

Even worse, the for­mer scourge of the estab­lish­ment is now openly col­lab­o­rat­ing with that estab­lish­ment to slay the Trumpian beast.  Cruz avoids crit­i­ciz­ing Rubio, while shak­ing hands with him on stage after a suc­cess­ful coor­di­nated attack.  He meets with Jeb Bush and hires his peo­ple.  He demo­nizes Trump’s sup­port­ers as dopes, morons, and incip­i­ent Fas­cists.  Now, as icing on the cake, he is blam­ing the can­di­date for the fact that a bunch of com­mu­nist and anar­chist thugs man­aged to shut down a Trump rally in Chicago:
But in any cam­paign, respon­si­bil­ity starts at the top,” Mr. Cruz con­tin­ued. “And when you have a cam­paign that dis­re­spects the vot­ers, when you have a cam­paign that affir­ma­tively encour­ages vio­lence, when you have a cam­paign that is fac­ing alle­ga­tions of phys­i­cal vio­lence against mem­bers of the press, you cre­ate an envi­ron­ment that only encour­ages this sort of nasty dis­course.”
…“When the can­di­date urges sup­port­ers to engage in phys­i­cal vio­lence, to punch peo­ple in the face, the pre­dictable con­se­quence of that is that it esca­lates,” Mr. Cruz said. “And today is unlikely to be the last such instance.”
This is the end.  What has con­ser­vatism come to, when its lead­ing advo­cate on the cam­paign trail, after decades of cor­ro­sive lib­er­al­ism, and seven years of a malev­o­lent, America-hating nihilist in the White House, blames a can­di­date from his own party and, worse, that candidate’s sup­port­ers, for the sorry state of the Repub­lic and the vicious­ness of its polit­i­cal dis­course?  Barack Obama and the Demo­c­rat Party have done every­thing in their power to set per­son against per­son, group against group, and party against party, exploit­ing divi­sions, and inflam­ing con­flict, until that con­flict and hatred has become insti­tu­tion­al­ized as a means of gov­er­nance, and Ted Cruz can only blame those that oppose the degra­da­tion, and the man who rep­re­sents them.  I can’t think of any­thing more opposed to the spirit of con­ser­vatism than that.

The dif­fer­ence between Ted Cruz and Don­ald Trump is that Ted Cruz looks out at a crowd and sees him­self, while Trump looks into a mir­ror and sees the crowd.  Trump may be crude, inar­tic­u­late, and occa­sion­ally boor­ish, but he looks back to an older, bet­ter Amer­ica, the essence of which is its peo­ple, its cit­i­zens, them­selves crude, inar­tic­u­late, and occa­sion­ally boor­ish; but who, like Trump, are ani­mated by a vig­or­ous spirit that, once unleashed, will make Amer­ica great again.  Trump is the means; the vot­ers are the end.

For Cruz, the vot­ers are the means, and he is the end.  When he sur­veys a crowd his eyes are full of cold cal­cu­la­tion.  His con­ser­vatism is an exoskele­ton designed to get him over the bar­ri­cades.  The rig is impres­sive, but can­not finally hide the pale, pasty, flabby milk­sop under­neath.  In this case, the clothes do not make the man.

A film critic once wrote that Alfred Hitchcock’s great film “North by North­west”, was not about what hap­pens to Cary Grant, but about what hap­pens to Cary Grant’s suit.  Told by a fan that he wished he were Cary Grant, Grant responded “So do I.”  Grant was being overly dra­matic.  In his case, the clothes did make the man; the Cock­ney Archie Leach finally was Cary Grant.

Not so for Rafael Edward Cruz.  It did not have to end this badly.  Had Cruz real­ized that con­ser­vatism is not a clearly artic­u­lated set of prin­ci­ples that must be imposed on a recal­ci­trant mass, but is instead the sys­tem­atized expres­sion of the yearn­ing of indi­vid­u­als and peo­ples, as flawed and imper­fect as they are, he might have been born aloft by the wave that is now car­ry­ing Don­ald Trump to the White House. Instead, blinded by ide­ol­ogy and self-regard, Cruz missed the wave, and is being left behind.

Rush was cor­rect — con­ser­vatism, prop­erly artic­u­lated, will win every time.  But con­ser­vatism is more than a set of bul­let points.  It is ulti­mately a form of trust, in peo­ple, and that, if left alone, they can man­age to get things right.  Trump may not have all of the bul­let points in line, but the trust is there.  Trust is the ulti­mate gift — if a can­di­date shows that he trusts the peo­ple, the peo­ple will trust him in return.  Cruz finally could not trust, could not give, and so receives noth­ing back.  And so he grasps at the only hand being held out to him, the cold, dead hand of the estab­lish­ment, that destroys every­thing it touches.

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