Quixotism is defined as the impractical pursuit of rash, lofty and chivalrous ideas that fails to take into account practicality and consequence. Derived from the namesake of Spanish author Miguel Saavedra’s famous novel, Don Quixote, “quixotic” describes those who put often unobtainable and unrealistic goals ahead of pragmatic and attainable ones. And nowhere does the term fit more snugly than on the forehead of freshman Texas Sen. Ted Cruz [R-TX].
Let me preface this article by affirming my support and positive feelings toward the Senator. Unafraid to stand up for conservative values and readily willing to throw a rhetorical punch, he has sparked much needed Republican grassroots energy across the country. He is both talented and ambitious enough to be the voice and figurehead of the GOP and the conservative movement in Washington, and I have no doubt he’ll serve his country and state proudly for years to come.
Yet, over the past few weeks Cruz has taken a position on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and government shutdown that is not only unrealistic but also risks the Republican Party’s electoral prospects. Cruz, along with a handful of other Senators, has threatened to shut down the federal government this upcoming October if the would-be stopgap-funding bill includes money for Obamacare. While Cruz’s aversion to Obamacare is admirable, his approach toward defunding it is implausible and could lead to GOP electoral pains in 2014 and 2016.
First, Cruz’s expectation that he can intimidate President Barack Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reid into repealing Obamacare is farcical at best. National health care reform was a liberal dream for decades before the passage of Obamacare in 2010. A cornerstone of Democratic presidential primary debates, it was Obama’s crowning legislative achievement and the realization of a lion’s share of campaign promises. All this to say that Democratic leaders won’t keel over and submit to the far-reaching demands of a freshman senator. Yet Cruz and his allies continue to charge that those Republicans who oppose their brinkmanship are simply scared to fight the Democrats. They believe that with the right pressure, Senate Democrats and the president will cave and repeal Obamacare. Former congressman Joe Scarborough described it as “a folly built on a fantasy,” and its fundamental tenet, that Obama and Reid would wilt under pressure, is farcical.
Second, the most likely end result of Cruz’s brinkmanship, a government shutdown, would be a near death blow to an already crippled and confused Republican Party. The recent electoral troubles of the Republican Party are well documented. Losing the popular vote in 5 out of the last 6 presidential elections, struggling in former GOP strongholds like Virginia and North Carolina and recurring troubles with minorities and women are all on the GOP’s long list of problems, and it would not behoove Republicans to add blame for a government shutdown to that list.
We live in a country where most citizens truly believe that their congressman or senator is fighting for and representing them, yet voters feel that trust is betrayed when their representative allows them to be furloughed for the sake of partisan posturing. The last thing the GOP needs is for voters to think that they don’t care about the paychecks, bills and livelihoods of everyday Americans. Furthermore, such a shutdown and its political implications would open the door for Democrats to take back control of the House of Representatives in 2014, removing conservatism’s last line of defense in Washington and once again giving Pelosi, Reid and Obama free reign over the United States.
Cruz’s mistake is not one of sentiment but one of judgment. He’s become so overwhelmed by the praise of the Tea Party and delusions of conservative grandeur that he’s forgotten the realities faced by so many of his constituents. In fact, many would argue that Cruz’s antics are simply posturing for a presidential run in 2016 — allowing him to stake out a position as the most conservative, anti-Obamacare member of the GOP.
THE EDITORS: For worse.
Yet for better or for worse, many hard-working Americans rely on the federal government for their paychecks — whether they work at a national park or in the Department of Defense. While Obamacare must be repealed, it shouldn’t be done at the expense of so many families. They are our neighbors, co-workers and family members, and they don’t deserve to solely bear the burden of a broken political system.
Repealing Obamacare starts and ends with winning back the White House as well as a majority of seats in the Senate, which can only happen when voters perceive that Republicans are more concerned with the well-being of middle-class Americans than with shutting down the government and tilting at windmills.
Hopefully, Cruz will take a deep breath, step back from the ledge and help conservative Republican leaders deliver good, honest leadership to the American people.
—Davis Parker is a junior studying economics and political science.