THE BLOG

Cruz Control in Reverse

03/25/2015 12:50 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2015
Tom Williams via Getty Images

It is so easy to toss wild invectives at and emotionally ridicule and disparage individuals in this polarized political climate that rarely does substantive debate enter into a discussion. The entry of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) into the presidential contest lends itself to such passionate incredulity that many of the truly discouraging aspects of his meteoric rise to the stage can be lost in translation. Therefore I will attempt to dispassionately assess exactly what his ascendency to the national stage actually means. Contrary to what many believe, I think it could actually be a good thing.

What exactly is it that this gentleman has to offer for the betterment of society? And given the dysfunctional state of political discourse in this country, what does he offer to help mitigate further erosion of confidence in the nation's leaders and institutions? Lastly, how large a slice of the American populace does he truly represent? These are three critical questions that deserve careful consideration given the contemporary state of affairs. Of course, that only applies if you believe paralysis is a negative, not a unanimous assumption, I fear.

Ted Cruz can accurately be characterized as a leader of the tea party movement in this country. In this role he has been a consistent and vocal critic of the president and, increasingly, what is left of the establishment of the Republican Party. It is also fair to say that he represents the right-wing fringe of a party that is desperately reliant upon a fraying and decaying demographic composition that longs for the good old days when the good old boys (read: white men) controlled the levers of power at all levels of government. Either reverting to or holding on to this reality is at the core of this movement.

They are confronted, however, with the inevitability that the demographics in our society are changing rapidly and our future is destined to be quite different from our past. This is a fact, not conjecture, and much like science, the journey forward presents those who wish to "take the country back" with a discomforting level of uncertainty, so much so that anything short of freezing the inevitable march of progress is seen as unacceptable, hence the acceptability of paralysis.

These are not indictments as much as assessments, and I doubt you would get much argument from the most ardent proponents of the right-wing movement that they are inviolable. Obstruction is not merely a tactic but actually a goal. In the dysfunctional governmental systems that exist both in Washington, D.C., and in many state capitols, an inability to advance validates distrust in government's ability to function and leads to an increasing level of cynicism, fear, anger and lack of participation among the populace. No legislative initiative more dramatically demonstrates this than voter-suppression efforts aimed at restricting participation in the selection of our elected officials. Thus, unless the engines of policy move backwards, neutral is just fine.

This combined with a system so diabolically corrupted by the influence of money reinforces both the perception and reality of a systematic exclusion of those who cannot pay to play in the high-stakes game of poker that is rigged to benefit the highest bidders. The old adage "You can't beat City Hall" takes on new meaning in the current political environment, one muddy and clouded so as to obscure any semblance of clarity or transparency.

So while most decry the current state of affairs, the worse it becomes, the more it benefits those whose primary purpose is to ensure that, at the very least, it not move forward. Ted Cruz is emblematic of this movement and is spearheading an attempt to not only keep the throttle of progress stuck in neutral but actually put the engines in reverse. Ted Cruz has brought to the fore a level of governmental dismantlement that would effectively take the country back to a time and place that defined the Gilded Age.

Instead of a vision for the future, Cruz presents us with a rather definitive retreat to a time that afforded less opportunity, less diversity, more hopelessness and more inequality. Rarely are the objectives clearer and the consequences direr than those outlined in his rhetoric and his actions. There is no hidden agenda here; it represents the audacity of hopelessness. That the objective is so crystal-clear affords us an opportunity to truly choose between positions that are definitively different. It helps redefine a system that all too often leaves those feeling they are faced with choosing between the lesser of two evils.

It is hard to imagine, given these observations, that society will be better off under such a scenario, that dysfunction will be ameliorated, or that this is the will of a large slice of the population. By elucidating his view of the world, Ted Cruz may actually be doing all of us a favor, for in an indirect if not unconscious way, his worldview is diametrically opposite of a general consensus and most likely will be dismissed as dangerous by a large cross-section of Republicans, Democrats and independents.

It is possible that we can actually benefit from mistakes, assuming we are not prone to repeating them. Rarely are mistakes so unmistakable. And one can only hope that the world that Ted Cruz posits in his speeches will spark an avalanche of rejection and an outcry that we can in fact do much better than this. If his entry into the fray does little more than energize the move toward a consensus around what we actually do not want, then it may have value indeed.