You can take your desert/Goddammit, give me mine.
-Randy Newman, "Happy Ending," Faust
If Goethe had written the Left Behind novels, his climactic moment probably would have looked like what was on display Monday night in Houston-a man, scrounging the tight, dark corners of his soul, probing every nook and cranny of his essential being, for one last, little splinter of a smidgen of a chip of a portion of a piece of it that he could sell to a political loan shark for another six years in the U.S. Senate. For what doth it profit a man if he gain the Subcommittee on Seapower, but lose his own soul?
Nonetheless, there he was: Tailgunner Ted Cruz, scourge of the Godless, mighty sword of the conservative host, assuring his fellow Texans that the man he once called a "sniveling coward," the man who attacked Ted Cruz's wife for not being a supermodel and Ted Cruz's father for allegedly having beignets at Cafe du Monde with Lee Harvey Oswald, the man whose supporters at the 2016 Republican National Convention assaulted his wife in the loge seats and then booed him off the podium for telling them to vote their conscience, was worthy of his devotion, and therefore, theirs.
For anyone who followed the 2016 campaign, it was a stunning moment of clarity. It is not often that you see a man put his entire self-worth up for purchase like a broken garden gnome at a yard sale. And it is not often that you see someone so gleefully, greedily grab it up as though it were just another pile of grimy foreign money, just another hotel he could run into the ground. Ted Cruz deserves Donald Trump even more than Donald Trump deserves Ted Cruz. He is now truly the devil's advocate, and the retainer isn't worth the embarrassment. Accept this man, said Ted Cruz. Because he is not the man Ted Cruz called a sniveling coward, said Ted Cruz. Because he is not the man Ted Cruz called a maniac, said Ted Cruz.
“In 2020, Donald Trump will be overwhelmingly reelected as president of the United States,” said Ted Cruz, and you could see the last flickering spark of humanity in him wink softly and then go out. Whereupon Ted Cruz, candidate for re-election, vanished from the proceedings entirely. There were more people wearing Space Force T-shirts-oh, you poor dears-than wearing Ted Cruz gear. The signs were all about anything but Ted Cruz. The president*'s remarks barely mentioned him. Ted Cruz sold that last little bit of himself to the president* and, right there, before God and the world, the president* reneged as though Ted Cruz were an Atlantic City gardener.
The biggest news at the rally probably was the president*'s full-bellied embrace of the idea that he is a "nationalist," a word that carries more freight than CSX does. From Politico:
“You know, they have a word, it sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist,” Trump said at a campaign event in Houston, where he rallied voters to support Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in November’s midterm elections. “And I say, ‘Really? We’re not supposed to use that word,’” Trump continued. “You know what I am? I’m a nationalist. OK? I’m a nationalist.” As the crowd in the Houston Toyota Center roared with applause, the president continued: “Use that word. Use that word.”
I swear, we're one brief Stephen Miller fever dream away from having the president* of the United States finish a speech with The 14 Words.
This was indeed unnerving, and the president*'s spectacular array of lies and bullshit was more garish than usual. (He claimed, bizarrely, that presidents used to have trouble drawing crowds in Texas. I seem to recall a fairly big crowd, which probably didn't include Rafael Cruz, Sr., but who knows, one sunny day in Dallas 55 years ago this month. And LBJ could pack a house.) He mounted a ruthless attack on Beto O'Rourke, whom he mocked, at a rally for Canadian-born Rafael Cruz, Jr., for not using his given name. "He pretends to be a moderate," the president* said of O'Rourke, which is laughably untrue. He launched into a lengthy farrago against his potential 2020 opponents, and against all the other people that make him wet himself in private. And only then, as an afterthought, and having shilled for every Texas congressional candidate on the Republican ballot, did Ted Cruz's name come up again.
For all the politics and politicking, this was a remarkable act of public self-abasement. As an incumbent Republican senator, Ted Cruz shouldn't need to play lickspittle to a bargain-basement Peron to beat Beto O'Rourke for re-election. But the same forces that created President Donald Trump worked in 2012 to elect Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz began that race with almost no money and with a name-recognition polling at three percent, and he was taking on David Dewhurst, the incumbent lieutenant governor, who had gobs of cash and whom everybody knew. But Cruz allied himself with the Club For Growth and the other money machines that were financing all those spontaneous gatherings of Brandywine cosplayers.
Ted Cruz got elected on the first stirrings of the politics of resentment that both beat him in 2016, and forced him to peddle the dead embers of what he used to be to the guy who beat him while paying testament to the guy's greatness. It would be an American political epic, if the characters didn't come so cheap.
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