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Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
9 Feb 2016
Toxic Words

During this election year, we are destined to hear many words that are toxic in the way they misrepresent … Read More.

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Cruz Control? Part II


Senator Ted Cruz is a hero in some Republican circles — and the opposite among many of his Senate Republican colleagues.

At this crucial juncture in the history of America, internal battles within the only party that can turn things around are the last thing Americans need. Moreover, each side in this political civil war has all too many valid criticisms of the other.

The Republican establishment's criticisms of Senator Cruz are criticisms of his rule-or-ruin strategy, which can destroy whatever chance Republicans have of taking back the Senate in 2014 and taking back the White House in 2016. And, without political power, there is no real hope of changing things in Washington.

Senator Cruz's filibuster last year got the Republicans blamed for shutting down the government — and his threatened filibuster this year forced several Republican Senators to jeopardize their own reelection prospects by voting to impose cloture, to prevent Cruz from repeating his self-serving grandstand play of last year. The Republicans need every vote they can get in the Senate — plus additional votes by defeating some Democrats who are running for the Senate this fall. It can be a very close call. Jeopardizing the reelection of current Republican Senators is an act of utter irresponsibility, a high risk with zero benefits to anyone except Ted Cruz — and the Democrats.

However unjustified Senator Cruz's actions, the very fact that a freshman Senator can so quickly gain so many supporters, with so much enthusiasm, ought to be a loud warning to the Republican establishment that they have long been a huge disappointment to a wide range of Republican voters and supporters.

One of their most maddening qualities has for decades been their can't-be-bothered attitude when it comes to explaining their positions to the American people in language people can understand. A classic example was Speaker of the House John Boehner's performance when he emerged from a meeting at the White House a while back. There, with masses of television news cameras pointed at him, and a bank of microphones crowded together, he simply expressed his disgust at the Obama administration, turned and walked on away.

Here was a golden opportunity to cut through the Obama administration rhetoric and set the record straight on the issues at hand.

But apparently Speaker Boehner couldn't be bothered to have a prepared, and previously thought out, statement to present, conveying something more than his disgust.

Unfortunately, Speaker Boehner is just the latest in a long line of Republican "leaders" with the same disregard of the need to explain their position in plain English.

That takes work. But it is work that any number of conservative commentators on radio and television do every day of the week. And they are very successful in getting across arguments that Republican politicians do not bother to try to get across.

Democrats are constantly articulating their talking points. Less than 24 hours elapsed after the Congressional Budget Office reported that ObamaCare was likely to cause many workers to have their hours cut back, before Democrats were all talking about the "freedom" this would give workers to pursue other interests, rather than being "locked-in" to long hours on a full-time job.

It was a slick and dishonest argument, but the point here is that Democrats immediately saw the need for articulation — and for all of them to use the same words and phrases, so as to establish their argument by sheer repetition.

Nor was this the first time that Democrats coordinated their words and phrases. A few years ago, Senator Chuck Schumer was secretly recorded giving fellow Democrats the word to use whenever describing Republicans — namely, "extreme."

When George W. Bush first ran for president in 2000, the word among Democrats was that he lacked "gravitas." People who had never used that word in years were suddenly saying "gravitas" 24/7.

The Republican establishment has more than a tactical deficiency, however. They seem to have no principle that they offer or follow with any consistency. Their lack of articulation may be just a reflection of that lack of principle. It is hard to get to the point when you have no point to get to.

Ted Cruz filled a void. But the Republican establishment created the void.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



3 Comments | Post Comment
I respectfully disagree with you...I think.
You begin by explaining that Republicans need to stick together to re-take the Senate.
Then you proceed to write paragraphs about what's wrong with them - the very ones who pay lip service to their voters but conduct themselves as "Democrat - Lite."
Raising the debt limit is the last thing we should have done.
What Ted Cruz did was to illustrate what liars some Republican Senators are and it's time for them to go.
Don't worry, they will be replaced by Republican candidates who understand what needs to happen in Washington and will energize the voters to support them.
What good does it do our country to re-take the Senate when establishment Republicans refuse to do anything to stop the ever growing national debt.
It's not that the Republican leadership can't articulate their positions.
Rather it's that millions of us are opposed to their positions.
Give me more Ted Cruz's in the Senate, not less.
Comment: #1
Posted by: realfactchecker
Thu Feb 20, 2014 5:30 AM
Mr. Sowell touches upon the central problem facing Republicans, which is that they tend to be a herd of cats.
The best tactical comparison I can think of is that the donks have mastered the ability to operate like Alexander the Great's Macedonian Phalanx: they form up with all of their spears pointed forward, and march in lock-step. It doesn't matter whether any one of them has contrary ideas or opinions, or doesn't like the person he's shoulder-to-shoulder with in the formation. The individual is subordinate to the mass organization, that is what gives it its power and momentum.
Republicans, on the other hand, resemble the army that the Persians met Alexander with: a hob-gob of sub-groups that have their own styles of fighting, don't seem to speak the same language, and in many instances would prefer to fight the guys to their left or right rather than the donk phalanx that is advancing on them. If it's not the "squishes" who are breaking ranks, then it's the "libertarians;" and if not them, then it's the "tea partiers."
There is a reason why Alexander beat the Persians, every time.
Although I don't advocate that Republicans become the mindless automatons that the donks have become, they do need to find a way to come together to fight the common enemy rather than one another. Therein lies the problem. Cruz is too often a loose cannon, but the Republican leadership hasn't been very good itself at "enemy recognition."
2014 can be a very good year for the GOP, and can set them up in good position for 2016, as long as they resolve to fight the donks. Whether, and how they can accomplish the unification necessary is the really, really big question.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Taylor Lake
Thu Feb 20, 2014 8:52 AM
Andrew McCarthy explains why Ted Cruz was right in the debt-ceiling fight and why the rest of the Republican politicians are playing a con game on the folks back home. I can't post a link to that article here but google for "debt ceiling surrender".
I find the arguments put forward by Andrew McCarthy far more convincing than those of Thomas Sowell.
Hope that Ted Cruz will be your next President and that he will undo all the damage that Obama caused your country and the world.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Dutch Renitent
Mon Feb 24, 2014 8:55 AM
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