Like Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz also portrayed himself as an outsider fighting timid forces in Washington while looking for a way to win. In his telling, too many gutless Beltway insiders followed the “Washington way” of compromise and calculated triangulation. That way, he said, was a surefire path toward policy failure—and electoral defeat. “You want to lose elections,” he said, “stand for nothing.” Cruz provided a 10 point list to help explain what he stood for: repealing Obamacare, repealing Dodd-Frank, stopping presidential lawlessness, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and ending corruption all made the cut. Cruz nodded to expansions of school choice and energy production, as well as defending the Constitution, but mostly it was a rundown of specific things he opposed.
Strangely, Cruz also seemed to suggest that part of the party’s problem was its insufficient criticism of President Obama’s agenda. After highlighting the electoral failures of Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, he asked: “The Obama agenda has been horrible for people, yet how many Republicans said that?” Well, Romney, for one, whose speeches often accused President Obama of having “crushed the middle class.” If there’s anything that virtually the entire GOP has been clear about for the last five years, it’s that they don’t support President Obama’s plans.
There are two approaches to theology: kataphatic (which defines God by saying who and what He is) and apophatic (which defines God by saying who and what He is not). See here for more on this. Can we perhaps say that the Republican Party’s vision is apophatic?
Suderman found Rand Paul to be the lone major CPAC speaker in a kataphatic frame of mind:
His CPAC speech opened with a subtle counter to the partisan victory cheers of his fellow headline speakers, asking the audience to briefly imagine a future in which liberty is once again paramount in American politics. “You may think I’m talking about electing Republicans,” he said. “I’m not. I’m talking about electing lovers of liberty.” In other words, what Republicans need isn’t a vision for the party, and ideas to run on. It’s a vision for the country—and ideas to make it happen.
UPDATE: Reader Bernie says he doesn’t want to defend the GOP, but what about the Democrats, who are just as visionless? He points to today’s NBC/WSJ poll results showing Obama at a new popularity low, and the Congressional Democrats also in the toilet — but not as low as Congressional Republicans. A fair point. I was thinking last night as I drifted off to sleep, “What does the Democratic Party stand for?” Well, health care. OK, what else? It’s hard to say, aside from, “Whatever the Republicans dislike.” To be fair to the parties, though, is it all that easy to say what the American people stand for? People are dissatisfied with the parties — I certainly am, and I bet you are too — but if the parties are having trouble saying what they’re for, only what they’re against, maybe it’s because we the people are too.