Monday, June 25, 2012

Ted Cleon?

My fellow Republican and acquaintance, Ken Emanuelson, recently posted a very good question on his FB page asking, “Where is David Dewhurst’s support?” This is a valid inquiry deserving a thoughtful answer. Mr. Emanuelson is an East Dallas activist who I have respected for many years, and he represents the light side of the Force when it comes to the TEA Party movement. He is also a senior member of the Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate campaign.

An empirical answer to Mr. Emanuelson’s question is that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s support exists in the form of the more than 624,000 Texans who voted for him during the Primary. This number was a solid 10% greater than Mr. Cruz’ vote total of 479,000, and I cannot find a case in recent memory where that much of a spread has been overcome in a runoff, notoriously low turnout in such races notwithstanding.

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst has the mathematical support to win the runoff on July 31 simply by showing up. Runoffs are won by one strategy and one strategy alone: re-amassing the total of votes (or a derivative thereof) one had on Primary Day. There is no reason to believe Dewhurst’s voters will not turn out; NONE whatsoever (the usual Primary turnout driver, the Presidential race, was a non-factor this year in Texas). Cruz’s fatal problem is that he cannot add to his total given the nature of his candidacy, whereas Dewhurst has some wiggle room even if his total may be suppressed by any number of factors (ads, debate performance, summer vacation, the Rangers, the planets, etc.). Cruz’ only mathematical hope would be for a Leppert endorsement, which is highly unlikely. Conversely, a Leppert endorsement of Dewhurst would be like sending in an Airborne platoon to attack a brigade that has already has been disintegrated by photon guns.

But Mr. Emanuelson’s question is interesting because the sentiment behind it reflects the heart of what’s been going on within the Party nationally for about five years and now locally. I am a serious Dewhurst supporter (I have been acquainted with him for 13 years and had the privilege of working with him and his staff on a state-federal policy matter when I was a staffer on the Hill), and I’m tempted to ask the same question: why don’t we hear from his people? Why am I not more “vocal.” The answer has to do with styles of participation in the body politic. And the best example of this contrast comes from Ancient Greece.

The democratic system of Athens in the 5th Century B.C. utilized a two-tiered system for picking its leaders. The “ecclesia,” which was everyone, picked a “boule,” which was a massive executive council of 500 men. And it truly was a democratic system (if you were a free male); it was only republican on a rotating basis. The principle behind this system of government was to attempt to break up oligarchies and cliques which naturally form any place there are more than two people with beating hearts. Even the generals, or “strategoi” were elected annually and closely scrutinized by the boule during their term. For example, if a strategos lost a battle, he could be fined, imprisoned or even executed!

Times of war made being a strategos difficult, even though he was elected to fight. This is what happened during the Pelopennesian Wars (431-404 BC), when the Greek city-states of the Pelopennesian peninsula, led by Sparta, got cross-ways with Athens and its allies. Thanks to Hollywood, we are all aware of the virtual invincibility of the Spartans as a land army. The Athenians knew this too and so barricaded themselves and their port behind an equally unscaleable wall, also relying on their superior navy. In the process, Athens protected its commercial system across the Aegean Sea and thus its supplies and wealth. This “conservative” defense policy was put in place by the popular and longtime strategos, Pericles, who was like the George Washington of Athens.

But staying safe behind the walls wasn’t enough for some Athenians, notably those who did have land around Athens which would get ravaged by the Spartans every year. These more hawkish elements called for Pericles’ dismissal as strategos, and they were organized and led by an eloquent, radical non-aristocrat named Cleon. Cleon was a constant, haranguing vocal critic of Pericles, giving little deference to the latter’s admiration by the people and service over the years. He was articulate, but Cleon would have likely had no sway had it not been for the support of some of the landed elite who were being affected by Pericles’ policies (which were put in place in everyone’s best, if uncomfortable, interest). Today, Cleon would have been a blogger or serial tweeter, no doubt about it. But Pericles knew best, and the Athenians endured with him. Still, Cleon eventually managed to get his way temporarily over Pericles when epidemics began to break out in overcrowded Athens behind those protecting walls. Under pressure, the ecclesia dismissed Pericles, but later reinstated him as he undertook a naval expedition to raid the coast south of Sparta. Ironically, Pericles died as the result of one of these mass illnesses afflicting refugee Athens, thus clearing the way for Cleon to become strategos.

But Cleon proved ill-equipped to be a general. His attempts to take on the Spartans in the open resulted in failure, just as Pericles insisted. Cleon was also paranoid and intemperate. Driven by envy and a lust for power, he cut off all contact with the Athenian aristocrats even after they initially supported him. He brutally suppressed a rebellious Athenian province by killing 1000 of its men in cold blood. Cleon used Athenian money to pay the city’s citizen jurors for the first time, in effect buying votes. He also employed a system of informants on his fellow citizens.

Strangely enough, Cleon himself died while conducting one of his ill-fated military expeditions, along with the opposing Spartan general. The result was for both sides to eagerly make peace.

I support David Dewhurst for many reasons. And I don’t have to be vocal about it. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is in a position that many established office holders get into: their representation is solid because their work is solid. 624,000 Texans think his work is solid and want to promote him. Dewhurst is not a career politician; he is almost 67 years old and has only held office for 14 of those years. He is good at public service, and there is no shame in staying in office as long as one is doing a good job. His supporters don’t have to stand up, yell and act like fools because that’s not our style, nor is it his. Calling Lt. Gov. Dewhurst “timid” is mean-spirited and the equivalent of a bully calling someone sensible enough to walk away from a rapid dog, “chicken.” If Dewhurst is “unable to articulate conservatism,” then so is John Cornyn. They have exactly the same speaking styles.

People like Mr. Cruz have the luxury of throwing bombs because they have NO RECORD and have never had to make a tough decision affecting the lives of millions – that’s their style.

Mr. Cruz has never had to get his hands dirty in public policy. And I don’t mean dirty like many in our era want it to mean, as in crooked. Mr. Cruz has never ONCE had to craft a public budget that tries to help as many of Texas’ most vulnerable citizens as it can, all the while making sure every kid gets a decent education and crime is fought. Mr. Cruz has basically been a legal contractor with the State of Texas as Solicitor General. He hasn’t been bad at it; it’s just that he’s no conservative hero, because he hasn’t had to test that conservatism in the fires of the legislative arena. He’s only had to present arguments to a handful of judges here and there – that is the full extent of his public policy experience. Even Ronald Reagan had to work within a very anti-enterprise, unruly actors’ union before becoming Governor of California.

Mr. Cruz’ candidacy, like the 50+ other failed GOP Primary challenges this year which could be characterized as “anti-incumbent,” is fueled by anger in search of a victim. He and his supporters are simply in Hulk-Smash! mode. THIS DOES NOT WIN ELECTIONS. Furthermore, to get elected on a tide of envy and anger is just as bad as winning with Democrat votes, in my opinion. It’s not who we are as Republicans, definitely not Texans.

The truly odd thing about this Senate race is that Cruz and Dewhurst truly disagree on VERY, VERY little. Instead, Cruz has been forced to attack Dewhurst for doing his job. The Texas Senate’s version of the Sanctuary Cities bill, which would have held up better in court, was no good because it wasn’t “ours” (the TEA Party’s). The Texas Senate’s version of the TSA anti-groping bill was no good because it wasn’t “our version.”

But there is another important consideration to be made on why Dewhurst MUST be chosen over Cruz, and this involves U.S. Senate Committee assignments. Article I of the Constitution requires the Senate and House to organize with committees. John Cornyn already sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, arguably the most powerful committee today in Congress when one considers their role in approving judicial nominees. The Senate GOP leadership, Cornyn included, will never allow two Texans from the same party to serve on the Judiciary Committee. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s unfair to the other states. If Ted Cruz’ attractiveness is because he’s a Constitution super-lawyer, why would we send him to Washington if he’s unable to serve on the committee that best matches his skill set? I know of no plans about Cornyn’s departure from that committee, let alone the Senate. And besides, Cornyn is already a super-Constitutional lawyer who could litigate Cruz into knots. WE DO NOT NEED ANOTHER LAWYER FOR A SENATOR.

Moreover, Texas is losing its Appropriator, Kay Bailey Hutchison. Someone responsible has to be prepared to fill the void in a couple of years. If this were Ted Cruz, he would find himself having to make all those tough spending decisions which he has ZIP experience doing. He would be eaten alive by that committee, and Texas would be crippled in the process. I’d like to see Ted Cruz’ justification for cutting V-22s out of Ft. Worth and Amarillo, or for not supporting a badly needed rehabilitation wing at the Waco VA. I’d like to see Ted Cruz say no to fixing an impoverished East Texas town’s failed sewer system after they’re rejected for an EPA grant. I’d like to hear Ted Cruz explain why he zeroed out an NIH cancer research program that is saving lives in Houston. Bob Dole put Phil Gramm on Appropriations – even making him a subcommittee chairman -- in an effort to make the budget hawk eat crow on spending and thus cripple a potential Presidential rival. It worked. Gramm once said, after bringing the leanest Commerce-Justice-State Departments' Appropriations bill he could make to the Floor, “Mr. President, my bill is carrying so much pork that I’ve got trichinosis.”

I will admit that many of Dewhurst’s supporters might be “quiet” out of resentment. We are giving the Cruz camp the silent treatment. There are many of the Dewhurst 624,000 who have been carrying the torch of conservatism for a long, long, long time, and we resent it when people come smashing into the China shop we have worked so hard to wrest from the Democrats. This is wrong for us to be resentful, but the Cruz camp, which is an alliance of TEA Partiers and Ron Paul supporters, needs to start taking yes for an answer.

I voted for Ron Paul last month, because I am somewhat acquainted with him, not unlike my relationship with David Dewhurst. I wish I knew Ted Cruz better, and maybe I wouldn't be so hard on him. This is how I make my voting decisions: I try to get to know the candidate in addition to his policy positions. Both Dr. Paul and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst are great men of integrity, and their policy positions are most in line with mine for the office sought. I don’t have any real disagreements with Mr. Cruz on policy. But I do take issue with his style, and ESPECIALLY that of his supporters.  How a man leads others is a HUGE indicator of his character.  I have been grateful to see that Mr. Cruz tends to leave a lot of self-righteousness at the door, even in the heat of a campaign. However, I will never vote for someone who appears to be exploiting the angry and envious, who in turn want to kill whoever does not agree with them 100%. Our state and party cannot afford a Cleon.

No, I’m not vocal. But I do blog every so often. :)