Not my phrase btw. Stole it from Bill Hemmer, who used the term as he was announcing that Cruz was beginning his 20th hour on the senate floor. He also said it’s the third longest speech in senate history.
But that doesn’t begin to capture what’s interesting and significant about this non-filibuster filibuster. It’s the dawn of a new age in politics.
What?! You heard me. Why?! Permit me to explain.
Numerous Internet sites are running live video of Cruz. He’s not speaking to a largely empty senate chamber. He’s speaking directly to millions of Americans. Which, to dinosaurs like Brit Hume, constitutes “theater of the absurd.” Really?
All politics is theater. (Remember the truism that politics is show business for ugly people?) It’s just not usually good theater. This is. For example, filibuster speeches generally aren’t speeches at all. They’re parliamentary stalling maneuvers executed in private. Senators in the past resorted to such tactics as reading wholly unrelated texts into the Congressional record, even phone books if they wanted to, because nobody was listening. Cruz’s speech really is a speech (with time out to read Green Eggs and Ham to his young daughters at their bedtime). Twenty hours in, he is still on point, coherent, speaking in complete sentences, composed and making sense. Because he knows we are listening, and not coincidentally, the thrust of his message is about listening. He is insisting that the DC establishment start listening to us.
Waste of time? Not at all. Why do you think the insiders are so furious? Not because he’s a distraction. Because he’s going over their heads to people senators are used to patronizing and lying to with impunity. That’s ending here and now. He’s keeping his campaign promise to fight with every ounce of his personal conviction and stamina on behalf of the people who elected him.
And now, for the first time in history, the people can actually watch him doing it. The difference is the role of technology. Throughout American history, the senate has been the country’s most exclusive private club. Think of how they always refer to one another, even political enemies: “My very good friend from South Carolina/Massachusetts” etc. Cruz is blowing that pomposity all to hell. The cigars, the paneled offices, the wink-wink deals behind closed doors, all in the name of fooling voters enough to secure reelection to the club.
Why even the self-proclaimed firebrand reformers we send to congress seem always to disappear mysteriously into committee meetings, double talk, and limousines. Suddenly they start telling us, more and more condescendingly, that everything is much more complicated than we could ever understand and they are still working in our interests. Right.
Cruz doesn’t care about belonging to the club. That’s his mortal sin. He’s not currying favor with the media elites, who are supposed to be the priests endowed with the authority to bless him. He’s not interested in being a good soldier in his party because the party generals are the only means of access to visibility, promotions, and future power opportunities.
As a freshman senator, he’s a buck private who should know his place and behave accordingly. Capiche?
But the Internet and the consequent rise of new media not under the thumb of the New York Times and NBC News have made the old model obsolete. When Brit Hume talks about “theater of the absurd,” he’s revealing himself as an elderly retainer in the emperor’s household who thinks all theater must conform to the conventions of Kabuki, everything stylized and concealed by traditional masks. (Be sure to read the comments on the Hume link.)
But now it’s masks off. Incredibly embarrassing to those who have been hiding behind them. Akin to the plight of silent movie stars after talkies arrived. Careers ended. New stars were born. And the entire nature of film acting changed.
Cruz is talking, talking, talking his way through the Kabuki masks of the congress. And they don’t like it. But we should recognize that he is flinging open the doors of the exclusive royal theater to the rowdy masses, who are — as is becoming apparent this morning — amazingly energized and enthusiastic about his so-called meaningless stunt.
Because they know it’s not meaningless, and no amount of spin on either side of the aisle will change their minds. He’s putting everyone else on the spot, Dems and Repubs alike, and they have no place to hide.
I think it’s called sunshine, otherwise known as the best disinfectant.
P.S. Ted Cruz just guested on the Rush Limbaugh Show. Apparently he’s not out of gas yet. He’s from Texas. About Republicans and the Senate, he said what I said in this post, very directly. Give him a long hard look, regardless of the heaps of horrible press that will be descending on him.