At an event not long ago, someone asked me whether I thought the GOP offered any hope to those I had just referred to as principled conservatives (by which I mean people who seek to restore and preserve respect for America’s founding principles). When I responded in the negative, she immediately asked, “What about Ted Cruz?” She looked bemused when I responded, “It’s hard to judge. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
That hackneyed expression is exactly appropriate when you’ve made an observation, and you’re waiting for some more conclusive evidence before making a judgment about what it means. For conservatives such as myself, the most obvious thing about someone like Ted Cruz is that he’s still in the GOP. On the face of it these days, that’s not a good sign. But I strongly believe that in politics, as in other human affairs, it’s unfair and unwise to reach conclusive judgments about people based on labels. Labels are, after all, a kind of advertising. These days, especially when it comes to politics and government, what sensible person takes truth in advertising for granted?
Take the Republican Party, for example. As far as conservatives are concerned, the GOP is currently like a fashion house until recently renowned for exceptional, haute couture designs and the use of all-natural fabrics of the rarest quality; all priced for the sort of people whose patronage creates value. However, some time ago it was acquired by an investment group staked out in synthetic polyesters. Their only interest is to cash in on the company’s celebrity reputation.
So they slap the company label on some cheap, 100% man-made knock-offs, and pump up the volume of production. They price the goods to attract customers who envied the label, but could only dream of affording it. The celebrity cachet suckers them in, allowing the investors to suck maximum short term profits from the company’s renown. Since outside investors have no long term interest in the business, when the ploy eventually extinguishes the label’s drawing power, they liquidate its husk and move on to find some other cash cow they can milk to advantage.
“The label promises remedies, but the box contains poisons.” Since taken firmly in hand by elitist faction quislings, the old Roman poet’s description exactly fits the contemporary Republican Party. Preferred by the truly adept assassin, the GOP poison is better tasting and inflicts less agonizing pain upon the body politic than the Democrat Party’s venom; no messy vomiting or convulsions.
As a result, many unwary folks still remain with the Party, just as many workers remain stay on with a company whose reputation is being exploited and debased for quick profits. Many think they have no choice. But the small investors who were once justified in thinking of firm as a safe haven for their retirement savings will take it in the neck once the profiteering has run its course. They should get out before the roof falls in.
But to keep investors in place while for the milking process, the new company directors shrewdly salt the company’s management team with a few outwardly promising go-getters, making sure their ideas and proposals get good PR exposure. The aim is to create some positive buzz about the future in order to postpone big moves out of their company’s stock. Some of these managers actually think the company really means to give their ideas a chance. Others, more in the know, stay on because they’ve been been cut in on the short term profits.
You’ve got to feel sorry for the ordinary stockholders, especially the ones set up to throw good money after what they don’t yet recognize as a bad deal. If you’re an analyst who suspects the truth, what should you say about the “rising stars” the company’s PR guys are pumping up to keep the sheep from interfering with what the Brits would call “the shear”? When it comes to the Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and any other “Great White (Hispanic, Female, Asian, Native American, LGBT, Black or other) hopes” of the GOP, “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop” is essentially my way of trying gently to warn unwary grassroots conservatives of what I am rationally persuaded is their real situation.
With this intention in mind, I ask you to consider Ted Cruz’s speech at the now falsely labeled “Conservative” Political Action Committee (CPAC) gathering in Washington, DC this weekend. It has all the trimmings one now expects at one of the current GOP’s well financed, faux conservative set pieces. Senator Cruz gave a good sounding speech, with more than a few conservative push-button phrases. They included the fresh-frozen red-meat mantra “Abolish the IRS”, kept in the rhetorical walk-in freezer for just such occasions. When I saw it quoted from Cruz’s speech, I can’t say that the other shoe dropped, but I was led to wish I had a private eye at the window, to check out whether what I heard was perhaps the gentler pat of a softly falling slipper.
You see, that slogan has all the earmarks of carefully thought out deception. The IRS stands factually convicted of rampant “partisan” abuses (I hedge the word “partisan” since the opposition between the so-called major parties is these days a self-evident sham). So “Abolish the IRS” resounds with the promise of strenuous remedies for Washington’s ripe and rife corruption of power. The IRS bin does indeed seem chock full of noisome fruit. And there’s Ted Cruz, promising to cut off the branch from which it hangs. What boldness! What courage! What emphatically empty posturing!
“Alan, Alan, isn’t that a little harsh?” Actually, it’s unavoidably reasonable. The IRS is like a branch, bearing poisonous fruit. But it’s the fruit of a tree poisoned at its root. The remedy isn’t to cut off the branch. It’s to uproot down the tree. Talk about tree-trimming is basically a signal that you’re offering no alternative to a steady diet of poisoned fruit pies.
This conclusion rides on on just a little train of thought. When Cruz says “Abolish the IRS” does that mean he favors abolishing the income tax? If he does, wouldn’t it be more honest to say so, and answer the inevitable question, “What’s alternative do you propose?”) with a sound proposal?
If Senator Cruz doesn’t mean to abolish the Federal income tax, then he means to keep it in some form. But that raises a raft of questions that someone sincerely interest in the nation’s prosperity has to answer, one way or another. Even aside from that, however, it raises another more or less obvious (depending on the audience) question: If we keep the Federal income tax, won’t there have to be a Federal agency to administer it? If so, isn’t the slogan “Abolish the IRS” more than a little bit deceitful?
The slogan, “Rename the IRS” would be more truthful. Of course, that more truthful rendering is hardly likely to set the mouths of many “red-meat” conservatives to watering. In fact it has all the allure of the institutionally infamous “mystery meat” that masquerades as veal (or pork or chicken) cutlets, depending on the fanciful menu moniker it wears.
Now there’s a thought. Instead of accepting the notion that the “Rock Stars” and “Tea Party Champions” the GOP front groups spotlight are the good red beef they claim to be, perhaps we should call them “Mystery Meat” Conservatives” instead. It comes in politically correct shades of brown or yellow, or red or white, but in the offing it’s more than likely to leave America blue. (Was that a political pun? No, more a punishment than a pun.)