As reported by Jason Zengerle in the latest issue of GQ Magazine, unnamed advisors close to U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) have quoted the war-hawk as saying he “fucking hates Ted Cruz,” showing further evidence of the friction between the growing libertarian faction of the Republican party and the establishment. This revelation comes on the heels of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) unsuccessful attempt to filibuster a spending bill that would fund the Affordable Care Act (2010), breathing life into a healthcare reform programme increasingly opposed by the American electorate. Whether GQ’s report of these uncharacteristically angry remarks by Sen. McCain turn out to be true or not, no one can now deny that his party is undergoing significant upheaval. A faction of libertarians and old-right Republicans is beginning to assert itself on the national stage, confronting the party establishment with ever more elaborate shows of political clout, and Cruz’s 21-hour speech yesterday is only the most recent episode in this struggle for dominance. Now, one full day after Cruz relinquished the floor, commentators are all asking the same question: Did it work?
Senator McCain’s relationship with the liberty movement has always been rocky. In the past, the neoconservative Vietnam veteran has been known to refer to libertarian reformists in his party as “wacko birds” who have risen to prominence as a result of showmanship and controversy. He apparently believes they do not represent any major change of opinion on the part of their constituents; that they are instead manipulating the media to serve their own careers.
“They were elected, nobody believes that there was a corrupt election, anything else,” McCain explained in an interview with the Huffington Post. “But I also think that … you know, it’s always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone.”
Unfortunately for Sen. McCain, it appears that the wacko bird faction has deeper roots than he claims. Recent polling by FreedomWorks is showing a widespread libertarian shift in the grassroots of the Republican party, with 78% of party-members and GOP-leaning independents identifying themselves as fiscally conservative and socially moderate. While only 14% of this same group described themselves as libertarian, it is worth noting that Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul don’t refer to themselves as libertarians either. Instead, it appears that the party is adopting the fundamental principles of libertarianism in all but name. Rather than the reformist movement in the GOP being a superficial stir of the pot which does not represent the traditionalist base of the party, as McCain would have us believe, all evidence shows exactly the reverse to be true.
By the end of Ted Cruz’s speech, the tag #MakeDCListen was trending on Twitter, having received over 500,000 mentions during that period. Despite these encouraging statistics, Cruz-sympathisers are already taking issue with the media’s treatment of his 21-hour speech yesterday. Taking to Facebook for the third time since Sen. Cruz began speaking, Gov. Sarah Palin lamented the minimal and begrudging coverage of the event in the national media.
“Instead of calling out the President’s deceptive comments, his reliable lapdogs in the media turn their attention and ire on Ted Cruz for daring to stand up for the American people,” wrote John McCain’s former running mate in a status update. “Maybe if Ted had worn pretty pink running shoes he’d have gotten more respect.”
Similar comparisons between Cruz’s speech and State Senator Wendy Davis’ 11-hour filibuster in the Texas legislature have become a common theme of discussion among pundits and commentators. While not technically a filibuster in the full sense of the word, the speech was intended to give voice to the public’s dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act, and to demonstrate the extent of the ideological pole shift currently underway within the Republican party. Though Davis’ filibuster was not similarly doomed from the start, it was similarly ineffective in stopping the law it was intended to block. In this respect, Sen. Cruz has met his goals just as well as Wendy Davis, no matter how the media portrays them.
Ted Cruz’s spectacle on the Senate floor yesterday worked, and the key to the next big Republican coalition is clearer than ever:
John McCain may “fucking hate” libertarians like Ted Cruz, but the rest of his party certainly loves them.