Cruz’s Mel Gibson Strategy

Bernstein unpacks the logic in a deranged, bewildered, frustrated GOP:

When you’ve reduced your entire movement to saying “no” to Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, is it any surprise that whoever shouts “NO” the loudest will wind up defining what counts as “conservative”?

Indeed, if you happen to be a demagogue running for president on the platform that you are the only True Conservative and everyone else is a squish or a RINO or a secret liberal, then the best plan is to find the most convoluted, self-destructive, but nevertheless very loud way of saying “no.” Which is basically what Ted Cruz and his allies have done with the demand that Republicans tie keeping the government open to defunding the ACA.

Frum is in the same territory:

Obviously, Ted Cruz is going to lose his confrontation over Obamacare. In losing, however, he will taint his possible rivals—including Rand Paul—as pitiful members of the “surrender caucus.”

Only he will stand brave and true, like Mel Gibson playing Braveheart. The Wall Street Journal calls his campaign “kamikaze.”  But the art of political leadership includes a shrewd understanding of how to engineer the right political defeat, for the right audience.

In the Senate, Cruz may look right now the very opposite of shrewd. But the view Cruz cares about is the view from Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina — and from there he looks like a hero to many of the Republicans who’ll choose the party’s nominee in 2016.

When a party is fed on talk-radio drama rather than actual legislative or policy ideas, Cruz is the natural fit. No wonder Hugh Hewitt is so keen. Waldman, on the other hand, isn’t taking Cruz seriously:

Rand Paul and Ted Cruz don’t have much more chance of becoming president than Bachmann did. That doesn’t mean they might not be interesting characters (Bachmann sure was). But we make the mistake of assuming that all the momentary attention necessarily means there’s great substance lying underneath.

I think Waldman is wrong. In their cocoon, the GOP base believe they haven’t had a true leader since Reagan. And given how apocalyptic they feel about the US, and how completely nuts they will become at the prospect of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, Paul and Cruz could go much further than most Washington pundits want to believe.

At least, that’s my bet. These people thought Palin could be president, remember? Never under-estimate their recklessness or extremism.