Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ted Cruz and the Art of Machismo Politics

     The more time that passes, the more it is evident that Senator Ted Cruz is the anit-politician. I do not say that as a compliment to Mr. Cruz, but as a recognition of it being a character flaw of the man. Polical skill has recently become a parahia on the Right among some conservatives. But political skill is how ideas, both conservate and Leftist ones, are transformed into public policy. No idea can be advanced in a representative republic without those representatives having political skill to guide them through a purposely complex process.
     One of the core tenets of political skill is being able to bring others who oppose you at least partially over to your side. A politician can not do this if he causes his fellow legislators to have acrimonious feelings towards him. This is true of the members of the other party, let alone members of one's own party. Mr. Cruz has not only turned off Democrats in the Senate, but also members of his own party. Not exactly a skillful way of advancing ideas to becoming policy.
     Ted Cruz seems more interested in the feel-good politics of "standing on principles," rather than actually achieving the end goals of those principles. It is what I call machismo politics. It can also be characterized as the puff-out-your-chest style of politics. Machismo politics does not follow the tenets of good political skill, i.e. coalition-building, but rather focuses attention and energy on the show of strength, instead of the hard work of winning minds and hearts of your own party as well as some members of the other.
     Mr. Cruz's favorite tool of machismo politics is the government shut down. This tactic has never worked to actually achieve the goal or purpose of the respective shut down, but it makes Mr. Cruz and his followers feel good. They can demarcate themselves from those who are not as morally superior in the other party, as well as in their own party, without ever having to face the consequence that their "standing on principle" has actually hurt their cause.
     The recent flap about funding for Planned Parenthood is a good example of a situation, that left to his own devices, would have seen Mr. Cruz shutting down the government. This would have had a two pronged effect. One, it would have taken the focus off the harvesting of organs by Planned Parenthood specifically and the abortion issue in general, which is a fight that conservatives are winning. Secondly, a shutdown would have placed focus on the actual shut down for which Republicans would have been blamed. Making the election of a Republican candidate in next year's presidential election less likely, and therefore making the defunding of Planned Parenthood less likely.
     But this is the other facet of machismo politics, the instant gratification that is gained by its practitioners by doing "something" now and not having to engage in the heavy lifting of implementing a longer term strategy. Politics is a tough business. One is constantly engaged in the convincing of others that your ideas are better, or at least worthy of consideration. Standing on the floor of the Senate and calling people liars and making public pronouncements that members of your own party are inextricably linked to the worst aspects of the other party, is not leadership politics, but machismo politics. And machismo politics is destructive, not only to one's own party, but to the nation as a whole.

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