For God, Texas and golf
Texas Republicans have just nominated a Senate candidate who is promising to protect America’s golf courses from the United Nations.
This is not actually the most important point about Ted Cruz, the Tea Party favorite who scored a dramatic upset victory over the state’s lieutenant governor on Tuesday. But we don’t really need to go over his basic agenda because you can pretty much guess it. (Hint: cutspendingshrinkgovernmentrepealObamacare.) Also, he memorized the Constitution in high school. And he wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service.
But about golf: In a blog posting early this year, Cruz vowed that as senator he would fight against “a dangerous United Nations plan” on environmental sustainability that he said was aimed at abolishing “golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads.” He blamed all this on the Democratic financier-philanthropist George Soros.
While I could personally look with equanimity upon the idea of a world without golf courses, the thing Cruz was talking about is actually a vague, nonbinding resolution that’s more than 20 years old.
The Senate seat in question is currently held by Kay Bailey Hutchison, a politically conservative and emotionally moderate Republican who liked working on undramatic issues like aviation safety. Cruz’s victory was the latest in a number of Tea Party triumphs in Republican primaries, and it certainly does suggest that next year the Republican Senate contingent will be composed almost entirely of right-wing purists and people who are afraid they’re going to be primaried by a right-wing purist.
It’s so ironic, people. The national electorate is totally turned off by partisan standoffs. You can almost hear the public imploring, will you guys please just make some back-room deals? And, at that same moment, the Republican candidates are being pushed into being more and more intractable.
Cruz will now run this fall against Paul Sadler, the Democratic nominee, who says that since Tuesday he’s been getting an “unbelievable” number of calls from people offering support and money. That would be a good thing because Sadler’s campaign war chest was previously the size of a piggy bank.
If Cruz wins the seat, he’d be the third Hispanic member of the Senate — two of them Republican, all of them Cuban-American. Perhaps it was a coincidence that just as he was cruising to victory, the Democrats announced that Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio would be the keynote speaker at their convention. Castro is the 37-year-old son of a single mother whose twin brother, Joaquin, is a state legislator currently running for a safe Democratic seat in Congress.
Take that, Republicans! We’ll see you one Cuban-American Harvard Law graduate who memorized the Constitution when he was in high school and raise you Mexican-American twins who went to Harvard Law and got elected mayor and state representative! The race for the Hispanic vote goes on, and we will try to avoid mentioning that virtually the only thing all three of these people have in common is an inability to speak fluent Spanish.
Texas money and Texas politicians helped create the Tea Party movement, and the state does tend to treasure the extreme. The current Republican state platform calls for an end to the teaching of “critical thinking” in public schools. In the Texas primary this week, a member of the state Supreme Court lost renomination to a former county judge who had made his name fighting for the right to work in a courtroom with a picture of the Ten Commandments on the wall and a monument to the Bible in the front yard.
There’s always been a strong anti-government strain in Texas politics, which seems to have something to do with Texans being obsessed with the fact that their state was once an independent republic. “We are very proud of our Texas history,” Gov. Rick Perry once said. “People discuss and debate the issues of can we break ourselves into five states, can we secede, a lot of interesting things that I’m sure Oklahoma and Pennsylvania would love to be able to say about their states, but, the fact is, they can’t. Because they’re not Texas.” He was totally stunned when it turned out that nobody wanted to nominate him for president.
But even Perry was supporting Cruz’s opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who represented the traditional Texas Republican business establishment. (Dewhurst himself has a Mitt Romney-sized fortune.) But he turned out to be a terrible debater and lethargic campaigner. His platform was basically the same as Cruz’s, although with a slightly shorter list of federal agencies to abolish.
Maybe the real answer to this and all the other Tea Party-over-establishment upsets is that the traditional Republican Party is just burned out and devoid of fresh faces. It’s either that or the golf course peril.
Gail Collins is a columnist for The New York Times.