If you follow the 2016 Republican presidential campaign, as I have tried to do without constant accompanying headaches and serious stomach upset, you will have seen or heard the latest installment(s) of what has become a unhinged food fight, involving all three of the remaining candidates, as well as various GOP “gray eminences” standing in the wings of the stage like ravenous vultures, ready to step in as self-proclaimed saviors to “salvage” the party from that scary Darth Vader figure, Donald Trump.
Normally, in such a rough and tumble mud wrestle, most of us would eventually turn off the boob tube or change the station (isn’t there a good John Wayne movie on TCM? Maybe some NCAA basketball on ESPN?). But, before doing that and before remembering that there is actually a real world out there…before making the switch, let’s take another look at what’s really happening. Let me suggest that once we get beyond the farrago of petty insults and the latest “he said, she said” episode, there are some very significant things becoming visible through all the verbal shenanigans. There is a “picture” or perhaps a view of American politics and society that most of us have for a long time suspected, but, until now, hasn’t been clearly in focus. And it is thanks to the brass tacks and unvarnished bravado of Donald Trump that that long-closed window has opened, even if just a little.
What has Donald Trump accomplished? Okay, he is a rough-hewn, says what comes into his mind-type person. He has a checkered past, he is “what you see, is what you get (which can be pretty salty),” and he speaks and thinks like 85% of Americans speak and think, or would like to speak, except for stifling political correctness. He simply cuts through the political pot boiler language and defecated verbiage that submerges our political culture and pollutes our media, and he is not afraid to stand outside the usual political dialectic. He challenges frontally and boldly the GOP establishment; he calls into question the down deep principles (such as they may be) of what is called “Movement Conservatism,” and, most significantly, he scares the bejesus out of the entrenched power and money elites. Ironically, because he was originally an important cog in that very same financial oligarchic establishment, he knows them well. He knows their vices, was good at those same vices, knows their fears, and now, in a variety of ways, including some way down on a guttural level, is pulling their collective masks off, revealing that all their supposed pomp and seriousness, and their supposed intelligence, is largely a sham…..a sham that has been sucking the life blood and vitality out of this nation, and abusing the public trust for far too long.
What of Ted Cruz? Cruz began the 2015-2016 election cycle as an exceedingly oily sycophant to Donald Trump. In what now appears, in retrospect, an almost nauseatingly irritating modus operandi, for the first seven or eight months of the campaign Cruz cozied up to The Donald, studiously copying and aping his campaign message (after poll-testing, certainly), hoping like the little avaricious puppy dog at the heel of his master, that the master would fall and drop his goodies all over the ground (and that the puppy could then swoop them up).
That didn’t happen, Trump didn’t implode. So the next step was for Cruz to openly confront the front runner, attempt to go around to the right of him, and, after most of the other Establishment candidates had been forced out by extreme grass roots voter dissatisfaction, become de facto THE Establishment candidate (while continuing simultaneously the thin charade of “outsiderness”). Establishment big wigs, by and large, jumped on board, and this despite their expressed distaste, at least personally, for Cruz. Thus, more of that stomach-wrenching politics-as-usual: the loathsome Lindsey Graham literally embracing Cruz, Jeb anointing Cruz as “saviour of the Republican Party,” and the Neocon/GOP elites, National Review “movement conservative” establishmentarians, The Wall Street Journal plutocrats, and the chattering media class, now in a veritable love feast with “Lyin’ Ted,” not to mention looney Glenn Beck, a la St. John the Baptist, anointing Cruz (via apocryphal Mormon prophecy) as some sort of Second Coming (again, I’m not making this up…you simply can’t do that).
But, wait! Didn’t Rush Limbaugh declare Cruz to be an outsider also, a real conservative (whatever that means these days)? Yes; but that’s the point. The facts are slightly different:
Cruz, despite his disagreeable character and what is (rightly) perceived as cynical opportunism, is still part of the regnant duopoly, still part of the established Republican/Democrat kleptocratic system, even if during his Senate career he selectively (and rightly) opposed various compromising efforts here and there. But, correctly, what Graham, Romney, and Bush intuitively understand is that Cruz would not overturn the present managerial political system. Rather, he would confirm it, and, at best, put a few band aids on it. He would—as he has done– continue to take Wall Street hedge fund millions; he would –as he had done–continue to push a completely wrongheaded Neoconservative American foreign policy that has gotten us into unwanted and totally unneeded wars across the globe, and potentially a shooting war with Russia; he would—as he has done–confirm the Neocon/GOP elites in their perches of power and control, yes, pushing them a bit more “to the right” (if his pollsters tell him to), but remaining within the established political dialectic, remaining within the tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum of our current corrupt and out of control political system.
The Establishmentarians know that…but do the voters?
Below all the massaged verbiage we see the face of an admittedly very skillful politician named Ted Cruz who has played the political game very artfully, who now proclaims himself to be Mr. Clean-Jeans, while he is, in reality, one of the more calculating, opportunistic, and insufferable “political manipulators” we’ve seen in decades. What Trump has done, however, is to force Cruz to lower his public respectability mask just a bit in an effort to counter Trump’s brutal directness. And thus the mud wrestling, but mud wrestling that reveals ironically much about a crafty politician, and mud wrestling that—if we look closely—says much about the essentially establishment vision that, down deep, still propels Ted Cruz forward.
Many don’t see it yet, they don’t see Cruz for what he is or the purpose he serves. “If the devil is fighting Hitler [aka, Trump], then I would support the devil,” famously said Neoconservative writer Bill Kristol. Thus, many “Movement Conservatives” flock to Cruz, because they know that despite everything, he is still “safe.” And if Cruz can’t stop Trump (for Neocon benefit), well, then those “consistent conservatives of spotless reputation, who speak with brilliant language, and don’t use words that 90% of Americans use daily,” will bring in a Romney, or go third party, or go with Hillary, because, after all, on essentials she will also shield them and protect the establishment. It’s that simple.
The question, then, remains: will voters who see the systemic problem be bought off, swayed once again, by the intense GOP campaign to stop Trump? Will they understand the profound issues at stake? Or, is it too late to begin the onerous task of recovering what’s left of this benighted country?