To The Daily Sun:
A couple of weeks of playground turmoil over debt and governance drove home a scary observation. America is losing its way in a leadership vacuum, and a leader has emerged.
The battle over shutdown and debt was Democrats and Republicans, the entrenched and bought against Ted Cruz. Conventional wisdom is Senator Cruz lost. Yet that one man forged a coalition of feisty rebels, forced the House of Representatives to the sidelines and sent the men of the Senate scampering to their woman to show them an exit.
Now, in the immediate aftermath, self-serving narrations are attempting to portray chaos as diplomacy. These narratives will rapidly evolve to sound bites as the portrayals are poll-tested and refined.
Ted Cruz will be at the heart of the narration. Having sought and begun to don the mantle of leadership, he will be formidable. He has the brains to manipulate the elected as well as the masses, the moxie to try, the ego to think he can recover from anything and the wherewithal to succeed at everything.
By all accounts, Cruz is off the charts brilliant. He was a top-of-his-class graduate from Princeton and Harvard as well as an award-winning debater. "Mother Jones," a politically left-leaning magazine, has called him the Republican Barack Obama for his smarts and minority status. He was born Rafael Edward (Ted) Cruz in Alberta, Canada, to a Cuban father and American mother.
While the old guard in his party blames him for beseeching the Republican brand and calls him a kook, others postulate he is the future of Republicanism. His underlying message (the federal government is too big and too powerful) has broad support within his party and registers favorably with a majority of the American people. With Tea Party adherents, his favorability is 74 percent.
Demeaning comments from moderates and liberals only endure him to the committed. After two presidential elections where the Republican candidate pandered right in the primaries, pivoted center in the campaign and flamed out on election night, fidelity to principle as preferred strategy over pretentious moderation is gaining respectability among the affluent and influential.
"Who leads Republicans?" has been an ongoing question. John Boehner, speaker of the House, has been an especially ineffectual leader. His refusal to exercise the power of his office in the latest fiasco enabled it. Ironically, following Cruz, offering tacit support to his gambit, made Boehner a better leader in the eyes of the Tea Party.
The other inside government Republican leader is Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader. The old guard is lauding his work with the majority leader (Harry Reid) to finalize and implement the woman-led design to end the shutdown and extend borrowing authority. Back home in Kentucky, however, many in his party view it as betrayal. That view may offer Cruz an opportunity to enhance his leadership persona.
Matt Bevin, a Tea Party type, is challenging McConnell in the Republican primary. Independent polling data for that primary race are not yet available. Nonetheless, there are signs McConnell is vulnerable.
Influential conservative organizations are endorsing Bevin. Sarah Palin is hinting (no so subtly) she intends to intervene on Bevin's behalf. Independent voters are turning on McConnell. His Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, has a slight lead in the most recent general election poll.
Two of the three top contenders for the Republican presidential nod (Cruz and Rand Paul) have significant disagreements on policy, but both are avid proponents of smaller, less intrusive government. Both have personal reasons to dislike McConnell.
McConnell actively opposed Paul's bid for the Senate in 2011. In doing so, he made some nasty comments. McConnell has been in the fore of the effort to demean Cruz and lead the intraparty effort to marginalize him.
A coordinated Cruz-Paul effort aided by Palin, conservative organizations and wealthy Tea Party backers could be the fat lady singing for McConnell. Moreover, it would put the fear of God into Cruz's Republican detractors.