Another line in the sand

    If you think Washington is dysfunctional now, just wait until Texas sends its new Republican senator to town next January. Here he is, folks:”We need to draw a line in the sand. If you’re looking for an established moderate who will go to Washington and work across the aisle and compromise…I’m not the guy.””Compromise”? Working “across the aisle”? Yecchh. Those concepts are for wimps. Real conservatives don’t do the hard job of governing, you see. They just “draw a line in the sand.”Such is the message from Ted Cruz, the tea-party fave who won last night’s Texas Republican runoff primary – thrashing the party’s establishment candidate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Given the usual token Democratic opposition in November, Cruz is virtually guaranteed to succeed retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and thus nudge the GOP even further rightward than it is now. If that were even possible.Just a few months ago, Cruz was going nowhere. A former state solicitor general who had never previously run for elective office, he had low name ID and little money. He finished second to Dewhurst in the initial Republican primary – losing by 11 percentage points – but because Dewhurst failed to crack the 50 percent mark in a crowded field, he and Cruz were forced into a runoff under Texas rules. Then the ground began to shift.Right-wing national celebrities – Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Sean Hannity, Jim DeMint, Rand Paul – flocked to Cruz, romanced by his no-compromise stance. So was FreedomWorks (the astroturf tea-partyers), and Club for Growth (the litmus-test conservative group). The Republican establishment, led by Gov. Rick Perry, rallied to Dewhurst, who spent $11 million of his own money – but grassroots conservatives surged to Cruz. They loved his attacks on Dewhurst. Care to guess what those attacks were all about?Dewhurst, as lieutenant governor, had occasionally cut deals (gasp) with Democrats in the state legislature. Therefore, Dewhurst was not a “true conservative.” And when the Houston Chronicle newspaper heartily endorsed Dewhurst, citing his “record of fairness and willingness to reach across party lines”…well, that kind of talk is anathema to the grassroots conservatives who thirst for even more partisan confrontation.Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan Washington political analyst met with both candidates earlier this year and concluded: “Cruz is not willing to compromise even if it means being irrelevant to the legislative process, while Dewhurst is willing to look for middle ground if that is what is needed to get things done.” Texas Republican voters opted last night for the bomb-thrower. Governing is about getting things done, afterb all, and who wants that?Cruz’s Texas victory is the biggest ever for the tea-party crowd – superseding even the Indiana GOP primary, where Richard Mourdock ejected GOP establishment Sen. Richard Lugar back in May (Mourdock insists that Washington has “too much bipartisanship”). But it’s noteworthy that as Cruz prepared to celebrate in Texas, two sitting Republican lawmakers were assailing their own party for moving too far to the right.Upstate New York congressman Richard Hanna: “I’m frustrated by how much we – I mean the Republican party – are willing to give deferential treatment to our extremes at this moment in history.”Ohio congressman Steve LaTourette, an alumn of the Newt Gingrich class of 1994, while announcing yesterday that he won’t seek re-election this fall: “People are afraid if they compromise on any issue, it’s a sign of weakness….Sometimes I ‘vote funny,’ according to my party, and I’m not interested in giving (the GOP leadership) my wallet or my voting card….It’s been my experience that compromise, cooperation, getting something done, is not rewarded. The group of people that are interested in that type of result – the circle’s becoming smaller and smaller. There’s only so many times you can run your head into a cement wall.”Which reminds me of a passage in the new book by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, the preeminent nonpartisan analysts who have studied the Senate for 40 years:”In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”Ted Cruz will fit right in.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal