Ted Cruz got a lot of razzing for his “Imagine” speech where he asked a lot of confused students at Liberty University to imagine a conservative world with things like a flat federal income tax. It was the “imagine” part of it that got the scorn, not the ideas — they are just standard Republican ideas. But I think it is really interesting that the Republican Party is so wedded to this idea that everyone ought to be pay the same federal income tax rate. This would make overall taxes in the United States regressive: the poor would be paying a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the rich. But that’s what Republicans like Cruz believe, and after they got their flat tax, they would start pushing for an explicitly regressive tax. After all, why should people pay the same percentage of their income in taxes?! One man can only walk on one road at a time; every man should have to pay the same amount. And so on.
It’s important to remember that as extreme as Ted Cruz’s ideas are, he is not an extremist in his party. The Republican Party is shockingly united when it comes to policy and ideology. And the mainstream press just goes along with this. So they treat the actual differences of opinion in the Democratic Party as equivalent to the tactical differences in the Republican Party. And it is in that way — and only that way — that Ted Cruz is an extremist. And this matters to his presidential aspirations in two ways. It will make it harder for him to get the Republican nomination; but if he wins the presidency, he will not face any special challenges.
Ezra Klein wrote an interesting article that touched on both of these points, Imagine Ted Cruz as President. On the first point, I think he is mostly correct. The focus of the article is the idea that “imagination is not a plan.” Apparently, Cruz is really disliked in the professional Republican Party. In Congress, many are angry at him for forcing them into shutting down the government. Does that sound pathetic? It should! But what do you expect from a party that is largely built on inciting its base to believe things that aren’t true and promising to do things that can’t be done and would be disastrous if they were. And so when Ted Cruz acts as the conscience of party, you whine? Give me a break!
But luckly for the Republican Party (and to a lesser extent the nation as a whole), the base voters are ultimately a bunch of followers. If they are told that Ted Cruz can’t be president, they will go along with that. After all, if they don’t, there might be a girl president; or some darkie; or a socialist! Regardless, these are all issues for the Republican Party. The truth is that whether the nominee is Cruz or Bush or Rubio or Walker or Paul, it won’t be any different if they end up in the White House.
It is on this second point that I have a problem with Klein’s article. He titled the section, “Can Cruz get 60 votes in the Senate?” I just don’t see Cruz having any trouble getting what he wants if the Republicans control the Congress. Klein tends to suffer a bit from Washington Insider Disease in that he assumes that the Republicans will act the same way in power as the Democrats did before them. This isn’t the case. The Democrats got rid of the filibuster for executive and judicial nominations. When the Republicans control all of Washington, they will get rid of the filibuster all together. So the question is, “Will Cruz get 50 votes in the Senate?” And the answer is: yes!
The main thing that we must all remember is that regardless of who the Republicans nominate, he (Of course “he”!) will become president if the economy tanks in 2016. So don’t think for a second at Ted Cruz is too extreme to lose. Anyway, Cruz is good in front of people. Remember how reasonable he seemed on Seth Meyers’ show? And maybe Cruz isn’t the worst we could get. After all, it wasn’t Reagan who destroyed welfare; it was Clinton. Maybe in twenty years, I’ll be saying, “It wasn’t Bush who destroyed Social Security; it was Clinton.” I still think Clinton will be better than any Republican, but I wouldn’t put anything past her.