WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Cruz's straw poll victory at the Values Voter Summit, just as his strategy to block Obamacare was collapsing in recrimination and desperation on Capitol Hill, indicates that some voters don't place much value on political realism.
While it is difficult to call Cruz's 317 votes significant by itself, the summit measured the mood in a portion of the right. Two themes were common: apocalyptic diagnosis and utopian solutions. "We have a couple of years to turn this country around," said Cruz, "or we go off the cliff to oblivion." Obamacare, added Michele Bachmann, is really "deathcare" and the evidence of a "police state." According to Dr. Ben Carson, it is "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."
Yet, Obamacare can be defeated. By standing strong. By fighting the good fight. And how will this approach secure sufficient votes in the Senate to overturn a presidential veto? The question itself indicates a lack of faith and conviction. Glenn Beck: "I'm tired of people saying, 'Oh, but we might lose'; yes, and we just might win." Standing ovation.
So America is going to hell, and will be saved by the methods of Peter Pan: "If you believe, clap your hands."
I had always thought this type of romantic posturing more typical of the hard left. The world is going off a cliff of inequality and capitalist oppression -- so pitch a tent in Zuccotti Park. Achievable results, even reasonable demands, are irrelevant. What the revolution needs is fearless consistency. Movement conservatism, meet Occupy Wall Street.
There is a difference between tactics that are difficult to implement and those that are unviable from the start. In this case, the effort had little to do with governing and everything to do with positioning -- the ideological maneuvering of tea party leaders. And they will certainly take the defeat they invited as further evidence of the GOP impurity they decry. When intentions are all that matter, no outcome can be discrediting.
But sometimes, it's been said, the greatest courage is displayed in standing before a crowd and affirming that two plus two equals four -- now the main Republican challenge. Political morality is determined not simply, or even mostly, by intentions, but by results. There is a virtue in achieving what is achievable -- in actually making things better than they are.