The Wilderness | Issue 44 | 3 . 24 . 15 | Tweet
Political strategy is much like professional sports. When a team wins a championship other teams will inevitability try to duplicate their strategy in hopes of similar success. This is essentially the phenomenon behind the evangelical rock stardom of Ted Cruz 2016. Network media has cocooned Barack Obama into a political pop culture icon, a brand instead of a politician, and ever since, Conservatives have been searching for his allied, self-perceived equivalent and in Ted Cruz, they found it.
Almost no politician has calcified the passions of social conservatives as Cruz. He has symbolically led them back from a political wilderness. His healing of the Conservative base is undeniable. Cruz became the guy bringing them water as they lay parched and dying in the desert. Cruz has always been the chief antagonizer of an Obama administration skating by on well wishes and good intentions from network media. That role remained vacant for almost three years and it was ripe for the taking. Cruz stepped up and took an almost self masochistic pleasure staking out defiant stances against this admin and Obamacare. Obama, Reid and Pelosi had no idea how to play him because they had gone so long without someone unwilling to compromise their principles in opposing them.
Cruz has always been the Joker showing an entire room full of Democrat mobsters his magic pencil trick.
They’re not alone. This is what the GOP donor and establishment class never understood about him either. He is a true believer. If Cruz tells them he can walk on water, he’ll find a way to do it, usually by letting a devoted base of political fanatics simply spread the rumors that he can, and that they saw him actually do it. Much similar to other leaders of faith, he developed powerful enemies in the process. This of course only made his stature grow, and his followers more staunch. Conservatives finally had an idol and no one will take that away from them. Not Barack Obama and Harry Reid. Not John Boehner or Mitch McConnell and certainly not online critics and pundits.
Conservative critics of Cruz are often on the receiving end of the wrath of Cruz’s devout following more so because the love of Cruz isn’t based in policy. It’s based in faith. Almost nothing is more sacred to an individual than that. Any faint criticism of Ted Cruz’s tactics and strategy from either side unleashes an online parade of locust trolls that would make Moses jealous.
Cruz is a religious celebrity much the same way Tim Tebow is, and has just as strong a following. What ardent Cruz online supporters don’t understand however is a criticism on Tim Tebow’s throwing technique is not a criticism on his character or his principles. This applies to Ted Cruz as well. You can be a season ticket holder of the New York Jets and still concede that they aren’t going to win the Super Bowl. The problem with this kind of political fanaticism is it plays right into the hands of the media and Obama administration.
The Obama administration was all too happy to take it upon themselves to use this cult like aura and use it to paint Cruz as a conservative boogeyman who with the wave of a hand would erase birth control and healthcare for everyone. They successfully were able to turn Sarah Palin into a media caricature, both during and after the 2008 election and were all too eager to deploy the only Alinksy bomb tactics their leader knows against Cruz. During the Government shutdown of 2013, Cruz took center stage in late night monologues and Daily Show skits and his transformation from idealistic Jr. Senator to proverbial boogeyman was complete.
The left have their new Sarah Palin and they are dedicated to portraying Ted Cruz as such.
Prior to his Presidential announcement, members of the media immediately took it upon themselves to concentrate on the same Palinesque style attacks. Both Philip Rucker of The Washington Post and Blake Hounshell of Politico stated on Twitter that Ted Cruz kissing his wife at a walk through was staged and rehearsed, which allowed Democrat ops to chime in about the religious nature of Liberty University itself. Mind you these are the people who have obsessively crafted every single nuance around Barack Obama or Bill and Hillary Clinton’s marriage.
Palin however has a liberated freedom that Cruz, as a sitting Senator, does not. Leftist media in-particular has always under estimated Palin’s blue collar appeal and routinely overplayed their hand in going after her to the point of having to apologize to her and her family, repeatedly. Palin, out of power and out to develop a permanent branding foothold in popular culture, gleefully embraces the bobble head, sassy hockey mom persona the media always painted her out to be and she has done it quite brilliantly. She’s turned their own game around on them and has been trolling them every since. She doesn’t have to worry about running for any more elections (Sorry 2016 and 2020 hold outs) and could concentrate and becoming a typhoon of conservative personality. Ted Cruz is a political birth product of that and is indebted to Palin for it. Her followers naturally translate over to him. He brings that same kind of faith based appeal to conservatives and social conservatives in-particular and with it comes their rabid activist passion. They see what media did to Sarah Palin. They’re not going to let it happen again. From anyone.
This is the talent of conviction Ted Cruz brings to politics that others simple just don’t have. Barack Obama has always been a blank slate. Hand him a piece of paper with some catchy slogans, turn the reverb up to eleven and out comes the preacher drawl and U2 songs. But take that all away and Obama becomes flustered, quiet and more reserved. Cruz has the ability to take a stage with no teleprompter and free wheel it and he’s certainly more of a religious show person than Obama has ever tried to be. Take away Obama’s pyrotechnics and he becomes mortal. Give Ted Cruz a hill and an audience and he excels.
It’s the difference between being an actual snake handler and snake oil salesman.
Cruz’s somewhat surprise announcement and launch of his presidential campaign is a reward to his conservative base. His developing theme of growing a loyal army of Courageous Conservatives, a theme that is almost guaranteed to stick, is one that will be too undeniable to resist for them. It’s like throwing a lion a steak. His stand alone appearances come off as faith based in nature more than policy statements. His Presidential announcement at Liberty University resembled a Joel Osteen or Hillsong Megachurch rock concert and Cruz is clearly playing the angle of pastor-in-chief. Cruz as the role of a political televangelist is an intriguing angle and one we have seen attempted before but not as masterful.
He’s more intelligent and more charismatic to pull the act off then say a Rick Santorum who comes off more like the sexually frustrated flagellant neighbor who knocks on your door every Sunday and asks why he didn’t see you in church. Mike Huckabee looks a little too excited to spend his Friday nights listening to pop music backwards in hopes of discovering Satanic verses. Cruz has a more mischievous sense of humor, like he already knows the punchline to the joke you think you’re clever for telling him. That was demonstrated by making an entire DC beltway press corps stay up past midnight est. to see what announcement he was going to make on Twitter. His breezy air of confidence is frustrating to late night hosts who have tried to rattle him with political policy but are completely caught off guard and unable to process that his policy and his faith are one in the same. He’s a soldier of social conservatism who knows he has a devoted army on his side.
He doesn’t have to yell.
A rabid fan base can go a long way in politics when it comes to online fights, but rarely does it translate over to electoral victories. Ever since the idol worshiping election of 2008, conservatives in-particular have been holding out for a hero to the point of forcing a cult of personality on people that largely agree with them. But Cruz supporters need to understand that Barack Obama was not elected because of rabid online mob trying to stomp out any and all opposition they think is out to break their favorite GI Joe. He was elected on an unprecedented data collection movement on the ground and helped by a fawning media who could not sit idly by and allow the 2004 election to repeat itself all over again.
Cruz could very well be the most principled conservative in generations but he’s also limited to expressing it to a base that largely agrees with him anyway. If Cruz can’t develop a broad grassroots movement on the ground, his declarations of evangelical conservative principles are meaningless.
The challenge for Cruz becomes if voters in blue wall states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado can become true believers. If his brand of rhetorical political televangelism catches on after eight years of religious marginalization by the Obama administration, while simultaneously avoiding the box that far right batshit crazy leaders like Pat Robertson will inevitably try to put him in, things will get interesting. He’s betting on tapping into jaded young social conservatives who have, as mentioned before, turned to Hillsong culture for a place they feel they can belong. If he can convince them he is their Shepherd then perhaps there is a symbolic path to the White House.
He embraces that preacher/savior role and in doing so he makes it easy for the media and leftists to marginalize him to independent, younger more libertarian minded voters and paint him as a real life Henry Kane from Poltergeist 2. Almost no Conservative politician has tried to conjure the ghost of Ronald Reagan more than Ted Cruz and that very real cliche will only metastasize the more the media spotlight is on him. If anything we’ve learned repeatedly, the more a modern day politician tries to invoke Reagan, the more we come to realize that person is not Reagan.
Reagan could always translate conservatism to non traditional audiences. Cruz doesn’t seem to be making that play. He’s pitching a tent and inviting the sick and disenfranchised to enter so he can place his hands on their head. The country is exhausted from ten years of listening to one long sermon. The question becomes if we’re prepared to listen to one for another ten.
We are burned out on seeing a President treated like a demi-god. We need real fact and data based solutions to begin rebuilding 8 years of disastrous and divisive policies. It’s because of Cruz’s stylings and appeal to faith that an almost cult-like political aura of support grows around him. He can certainly march his loyalists into battle against the left and the right. But the question remains if he will have enough of them to conquer Hillary Clinton.
Sermons won’t win this election. Solutions will.
– SM –