After Republicans drifted for years without a pilot, Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have taken the helm of the GOP, steering their party and its grassroots into a much-needed, head-on battle with the Democrats.
On the campaign trail on the way to his win in November 2012, President Barack Obama promised to finish the work he’d gone to Washington to do: “fundamentally transforming the United States.” Things look tough for the right in Washington today, but the reality is these three conservative Republicans, aided by friends in the Senate and the House, have dragged the president’s ambitious agenda to a complete halt, throwing both him and Democrat Sen. Harry Reid on their heels and adding policy paralysis to the president’s long list of post-election woes.
While Republican leadership in the House was loud when scandals from Benghazi to the IRS unfolded, over the last year conventional wisdom in Washington has held that sequester would never happen; amnesty for illegal immigrants was a done deal; no sane Republican would stand against an assault-weapons ban after Sandy Hook; the GOP would bless a charge into Syria; and, well, fill in the blank: student loans? Climate change? The tea party was over and Washington, D.C. was Obama’s oyster.
But then a strange thing happened. As one by one, impossible victories were won, observers saw the policy agenda of the president — a man who won a resounding victory just months ago — stagnate and stall: He hasn’t won a single victory since his re-election. (RUSH LIMBAUGH: ‘Amen!’)
It’s almost surreal. Sequester is tentatively in place; amnesty is derailed; gun control is on the run; American forces are not involved in Syria’s civil war.
Senior Republicans are taking their cues from a couple of freshman conservatives.
After years of void, Republicans have leadership in D.C.
And after decades of void, conservatives do, too.
The new breed of conservatives won victories by shifting public opinion and navigating parliamentary procedure. Today, Cruz and Lee’s fight to defund Obamacare is deeply mired in parliamentary mumbo-jumbo, and public opinion is divided and negative across the board. In short, it is not ideal. And so long as the Democrats control the White House and the Senate, it never could be ideal. But one thing is undeniable: Their stand has lit a much-needed fire in D.C. (BEDFORD VIDEO: Obama, media, fail to summon apocalypse)
Will they defund Obamacare? No, they won’t. But they could — and they have — changed the narrative in Washington. And barring a disaster, that could change the narrative across the country on Nov. 4, 2014.
The folks who live in the world of Politico see electoral defeat hiding in the closet and Newt Gingrich’s ghost under the bed, but here’s an important question: What are Republicans so afraid of? Who is coming to get them?
The House of Representatives has turned Obama and Reid’s strategy on its head. When the president used the bully pulpit to call for Republicans to fund children with cancer, they did; when the president used the bully pulpit to call for Republicans to fund national parks, they did; when the president used the bully pulpit to call for Republicans to fund veterans, they did. All of the House’s stop-gap measures died in the Democrat’s Senate, along with scores of others.
Now, imagine the Democrat’s 2014 campaign ads: “One year ago, Republicans caved on the C.R.” “One year ago, Ted Cruz shut down the government.” Are those so deadly? Are Republican afraid that the Democrats won’t go easy, like they did last time? That time they called Republicans pro-rapists who wanted to push the elderly off cliffs and put African Americans “back in chains”? (BEDFORD VIDEO: Has Chris Matthews ever made a bigger ass of himself than he did this week?)
Now imagine the GOP’s 2014 ads: “Sen. John Doe voted against funding our cancer clinics, against funding our parks, against funding our veterans — all to please Harry Reid.”
“As a result of this fight, we have a dozen House votes with Democrats voting against veterans, cancer research, the National Guard, parks and monuments, FEMA, FDA, and so on,” one senior defund Senate staffer told The Daily Caller. “In the Senate, we have a bunch of statements from Democrats saying that our attempt to protect veterans was ‘playing games’ and ‘unserious.’ These will all be tools in the next election, and would not have happened without the fight.” (BEDFORD: A House Divided: The Wacko Birds and their war on DC)
What’s more, the effects of this shutdown simply aren’t felt by the vast majority of Americans and will be forgotten just as soon as cable news’ doomsday clocks are taken off the screen.
Republican naysayers should stop fretting, and pay attention to the conservative ascendancy right in front of their eyes.
In 1964, conservatives crashed the Grand Old Party, wresting the nomination from the moderates and, admittedly, running the GOP into a terrible electoral defeat. But in 1964, Sen. Barry Goldwater caught the nation’s imagination, and lit a fire that never went out.
In 1976, afters years in the wilderness, conservatives fought again to wrest control from the moderates when Gov. Ronald Reagan primaried the sitting Republican president. Reagan lost, and his efforts contributed to President Gerald Ford’s defeat and President Jimmy Carter’s win, but he caught the nation’s imagination and stoked that fire that Goldwater had lit.
The “glorious disasters” that were 1964 and 1976, of course, laid the foundation for the Reagan Revolution.
That isn’t to say that Lee and Cruz don’t have their faults. Like in ’64 and ’76, not every aspect of their plans have gone as we, and they, would like. But for nearly two decades, conservatives languished without national leadership capable of closing the ranks. Today, Lee and Cruz have taken that mantle, stepping up the pressure, drawing bold lines and forcing hard votes.
In 1975 — 11 years after Goldwater’s defeat, one year after the end of Watergate, one year before his primary defeat and five years before his presidential victory — Reagan told an assembled crowd that the Republican Party must move aggressively forward, “raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people.”
Reagan was right then, and he is right now. No, we won’t win every battle. But here in front of us are the means, the talent and the courage to win the country. Don’t miss the boat.