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Ted Cruz and the Conservatism of Illusion and Deception

I disagree somewhat with Jonathan’s earlier post on Ted Cruz. There are several things I found problematic about the effort by Cruz and Company to “defund” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but perhaps what was most alarming, from a conservative perspective, is that it was an effort utterly detached from reality.

As I’ve argued several times before (including here), this whole gambit was based on the fiction, perpetrated by Cruz and others, that the Affordable Care Act could be defunded (without even a single Democratic vote, according to Cruz). That was never true. That goal was an illusion. A mirage. A delusion. And surely Mr. Cruz, an intelligent and well-educated man, knew it. There was simply no way a Democratic Senate and Barack Obama would abolish his signature domestic achievement. And defunding the ACA would require just that.

No matter. Senator Cruz, along with several of his colleagues, convinced many grassroots conservatives and Tea Party members that the end game was to put a stake through the heart of ObamaCare, once and for all. If you sided with them, you were a principled conservative who opposed ObamaCare; if you were against them, you were part of the “surrender caucus.” This was cast as a Moment of Truth. 

Now the whole thing is being exposed for what it was – a game. And the (inevitable) failure by Cruz and the others will leave these people crushingly disappointed and enraged. They were led to believe something that was simply not true – and many of them still don’t know they were misled.

Beyond all that is the damage this inflicts on conservatism. Conservatism, after all, is a political philosophy that is (or should be) anti-utopian, empirical, prudent, somewhat modest in its expectations and firmly grounded in reality. That’s certainly not all that conservatism is, but those elements comprise it. Yet here we are, with a large part of the conservative movement having taken a journey through the looking glass.

This whole episode was a low moment for genuine conservatism.