Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The GOP’s Ted Cruz Problem

I've written about Ted Cruz, a supposed "rising star" in the Republican Party, several times of late.  Why?  Because he and Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli here in Virginia represent the delusional and hate filled element of the GOP that needs to be defeated and driven from the mainstream of the party if it is going to be saved from possible extinction at some point in the future.  These nasty individuals play well with the spittle flecked, knuckle dragging  GOP base, but they are driving voters and would be future Republicans from the party.   A piece in Salon explores why Cruz's rise in the GOP "could damage his party more than Joe McCarthy and Jesse Helms ever did."  Here are some highlights:

We’ve seen senators like Ted Cruz before. The historical comparison most commonly invoked involves Joe McCarthy, whose scurrilous red-baiting crusade in the early 1950s shattered the careers of innocent public servants and alienated McCarthy from his fellow senators, but also made him a folk hero on the right. Jesse Helms comes to mind too. The far-right North Carolinian was generally seen as more trouble than he was worth by his party’s establishment  .  .  .  .  

So it goes for Cruz, the freshman Texas senator who in his first two months on the job has baselessly asserted that Chuck Hagel might have received money from the North Korean government, reiterated his belief that there were 12 Communists on Harvard Law School’s faculty when he was a student there, and delighted in playing the role of ideological purist, even – or especially – if it puts him at odds with fellow Republicans..

The Hagel attacks have drawn cries of McCarthyism from the left, a torrent of negative media coverage, and earned Cruz a public rebuke from John McCain. But none of this has bothered Cruz, and for good reason: His standing within the conservative movement is only growing. 

What makes Cruz and Cruz-ism a particular problem for his party is the demographic conundrum Republicans now face. Obama’s reelection (and Democrats’ unexpected gains in the Senate) was testament to the rising clout of the “coalition of the ascendant” – African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, women (particularly single women), Millennials. As Joan Walsh pointed out last week, Cruz’s Cuban-American background by itself won’t improve his or his party’s standing with Hispanics or other minorities. Instead, he’s appealing to the aging, overwhelmingly white core of the Republican base  .  .  .  . 

Cruz is now positioned as a major obstacle to the ideological modernization that the Republican Party is desperately in need of. If his brand of conservatism is treated as the gold standard of purity by the conservative media and conservative activists, Republican leaders will have a hard time moving the party away from its Obama-era orthodoxy. .  .  .  .  In some states, like Cruz’s Texas, it really doesn’t matter whom the GOP nominates; the party will win anyway. But in other states, the nomination of a Cruz-like candidate can be an act of electoral suicide.

When firebrands like McCarthy and Helms were on the scene, the Republican Party was more geographically and ideologically diverse.  .  .  .  But the GOP’s appeal has narrowed in the last decade or two. That doesn’t mean the party is doomed, but it does need a reboot – a reboot that’s difficult to envision as long as the party’s base continues to celebrate behavior like Cruz’s.

The choices for the GOP are to change and attract new voters and younger voters or to focus on the dwindling number of aging angry whites and religious extremists.  The changing demographics should be obvious.  Unless, of course, one is living in the alternate universe of the Christofascists and Tea Party crowd. 

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