Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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October 2, 2013

After talking the talk, Ted Cruz wins

Long ago, Ted Cruz earned the hatred of every elected Democrat in Washington. Now, he’s on his way to doing the same with nearly every Republican. Soon, it will be almost a clean sweep.

He is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill’s quip about Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, a bull who carries a china shop with him. He had barely begun his 21-hour filibuster — or, to be strictly precise, 21-hour-long speech — when he compared his doubters to appeasers of Adolf Hitler, and he ended it roughly a day later with a prickly exchange with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The Cruz eye-rollers had plenty of occasions to roll their eyes — perhaps no senator has caused so many colleagues to mutter under their breaths in his first eight months in the world’s greatest deliberative body — but the conservative grass roots cheered. They are desperate for passion and, above all, fight, and Cruz delivered them during his long hours holding forth on C-SPAN2.

We should stipulate upfront that he is not going to defund Obamacare. As a legislative strategy, the defund effort is far-fetched to the point of absurdity. The theory is that on the cusp of or after a government shutdown, pressure becomes so intense on Democrats that Reid buckles and passes a measure defunding Obamacare, and Barack Obama signs it.

Let’s put aside for the moment that Democrats believe — probably rightly — that Republicans will be blamed for any shutdown. Why would a little downside political risk in the current confrontation move them? We’re talking about a party that spent decades trying to pass something like Obamacare and a president who was content to lose his House majority over it.

The Cruz all-nighter wasn’t a legislative tactic so much as it was what 19th-century anarchists called “the propaganda of the deed.” It made a point. It dramatically reaffirmed Republican resolve to repealing Obamacare. It drove more debate about the health-care law. It perhaps opened up space for more realistic immediate Republican goals, such as a delay in the individual mandate, in the impending fiscal fights.

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