In case you missed them I wanted to note a couple of interesting contributions from Steve Benen today.
The first one notes that it appears something like 36.4% of eligible voters turned out for last week’s midterms. That’s the lowest percentage since 1942, when of course some of our citizens were geographically out of reach of the polls. For Democrats this is naturally bad news, but Benen points out that Republicans cannot in any sense claim a mandate, since they got about 52% of the 36.4% that voted, which comes out to just under 19% of those eligible.
The second one is a simple observation about Ted Cruz’s angry response to Obama urging the FCC to reclassify broadband into the public utility category where it could be heavily regulated rather than the category for businesses like Netflix and Facebook, which are lightly regulated. Benen says that “Cruz’s problem has always been surprisingly simple: he’s not dumb, he thinks you’re dumb.”
I would argue instead that Cruz’s strength is that he knows his audience. Seeing politics through a lens built around Bob Altemeyer’s Right Wing Authoritarians, Cruz is both an RWA and a Social Dominator, an SDO; Altemeyer calls this a Double High as it involves high scores on the two scales. Such folks have the greatest capacity for doing harm because they are true believers themselves, not the fake sort like a certain recent past President. Thus they can even more effectively convince their followers, and I use that term advisedly, that together they form a group which must hold onto its identity by any means necessary. The means that’s frequently closest at hand is to find an opponent or enemy and define the group by opposition to the Other. This emphasizes the natural tendency of certain groups to perceive opposition and even persecution where it doesn’t actually exist. Christians, for example, are so far from persecuted that Christian churches are everywhere, we’ve never had an avowedly non-Christian President, and any politician who is not a Christian had better have a good reason and an alternate religion, no agnostics or atheists allowed. Sure, many of the so-called Founding Fathers were actually deists rather than true Christians, but they were able to use terminology that emphasized their areas of agreement with the dominant tradition and they slipped by.
Anyway, I would say not that thinking you’re dumb is Cruz’s problem, but rather that it’s his limitation. He has a very strong hold on a constituency of which a disproportionate percentage actually shows up at the polls and which thus wields a huge amount of influence. His problem is really that he’s a self-righteous jerk whose shtick is basically throwing bombs wherever he thinks they’ll cause the most visible explosion. That makes him a hero with the true-believer crowd that follows him, but in my opinion it won’t fly with most Americans. He can be re-elected Senator in Texas, and he is already having an outsized influence on his party and its upcoming nomination process, but he will never be President.