Ted Cruz is too extreme to ignore

Posted Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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In the glow of Monday's stirring inauguration, it's a good idea to focus again on those Texans who can't understand how the world has passed them by, how governing by fear and cowardice will only speed their party's dissolution.

I'm talking about only one Texan: new U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

We are not living in an overtly liberal time. President Barack Obama might have mentioned civil rights for all, specifically including people of color and gays, but in 2013 that's just recognizing the world for the diversity it holds.

He does not adhere to Martin Luther King Jr.'s long-forgotten vision for a world without military arrogance. Drone strikes are still killing innocent people. We're still spying on our own citizens.

(You want to read a liberal vision? Read FDR's second inaugural address: "... we have begun to bring private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public's government.")

No, what we are living in now is an era of pragmatism and data. For example: The president mentions climate change because he must, because the data are staggering and the consequences of ignoring them are catastrophic.

A New Pragmatism has value. It brings with it hope. Hope that legislators can see that hard-line stances on either side will ultimately ostracize reasonable voters, that it is incompatible with an increasingly youthful, smarter, more-engaged electorate. A generation that understands nuance and complexity.

Unless you're Ted Cruz. As The New York Times noted in a Sunday editorial, Cruz "embodies the rigidity the public grew to loathe in Congress's last term."

The editorial explains: "Unlike 85 percent of the Republicans in the Senate, he would have voted against the fiscal cliff deal. He says gun control is unconstitutional. Breaking even with conservative business leaders, he would have no qualms about using the debt ceiling as a hostage because he believes (falsely) that it would produce only a partial government shutdown and not default."

This is standard operating procedure in Texas. Our rural-fed stubborn cow of a Legislature won't even let its residents vote on money-raising bills that they favor. But nationally, it's an embarrassment.

That people like Cruz are not being marginalized but instead are given real power within Congress should make me happy, being a Democrat.

But I'm also a strong believer in the possibility of the federal government to do good, to lead the country, to protect its citizens against corporate malfeasance, and people like Ted Cruz greatly hinder that possibility.

He is not like U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texan with whom I disagree often (always?) but who takes his job seriously.

As a retiring Republican member of Congress recently said of Cruz and his ilk: "These guys are OK when it comes to ideology and dogma, but they don't have a clue how to participate in the legislative process."

That was evident last weekend. Cruz, appearing on Meet the Press, spouted only the most canned, Tea Party-lite rhetoric, ignoring the questions asked and decrying the president (and, in turn, Americans) for daring to discuss gun control in the wake of children being murdered.

Cruz wraps himself in a tattered, bloodstained cloak of denial on this issue and others, one that would be laughable if it weren't so dangerous.

Cruz invited a short honeymoon, coming into Washington with his chest stuck out. I hope the mainstream press in North Texas gives him the attention he craves and doesn't abdicate such examination to large papers from the Northeast.

The damage Cruz plans on inflicting is too great to ignore.

Eric Celeste is a Dallas-based writer who pens the column "Let Me Sum Up" for CultureMap Dallas. A version of this column first appeared on the CultureMap Dallas website, dallas.culturemap.com.

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