Sir Isaac Newton instructs us, in the Third Law of Motion, that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. It may be another way of saying that without Barack Obama there might not now be a Ted Cruz.
The political writers swarmed all around the Texas Republican Party's recent convention with the tale of how much enthusiasm Cruz aroused there as the party's prospective answer to Barack Obama and Harry Reid. "I tell you this," Cruz said at one Republican event, "as good as 2014 is gonna be, 2016 is gonna be even better."
"Something incredible is happening," he told delegates. "Something is sweeping the state of Texas; it's sweeping every state." He likened the "something" to "the Reagan revolution we saw in the face of stagnation, in the face of feckless, naive foreign policy, in the face of America getting weaker and weaker ... " Cruz won hands-down the delegates' straw poll for president. He wants to get it done -- the repeal of "every blessed word" of Obamacare; an end to the Common Core standards for public education; support for pro-freedom dissidents everywhere; rebukes galore to the "corrupt, bipartisan cabal in Washington." The delegates cheered and cheered -- in opposite and possibly equal reaction to the political and philosophical excesses of the past five and a half years.
It had to come to this, maybe. Barack Obama's policies of economic intervention and foreign policy retreat, along with his change of course on same-sex marriage, have conservatives, along with droves of moderates, ready for something very different. Newton, no politician -- a scientist, rather -- would likely have surveyed the current scene with solemn recognition.
Like George W. Bush, running as the un-Clinton, Cruz seems ready to run for president as the un-Barack. It is a posture that affords satisfactions; so it also poses real dangers.
At a political convention, depending on the issues at stake, the word can get around: We can do this thing. Sacred fire is lighted on the mountaintops. To the barricades! The Democrats had their turn in 2008, with Obama-Biden. Here now, in reply, come the thundering elephants.
We shall judge their direction and tactics in due course. Meantime, a little caution in characterizing their prospects seems in order. The Cruz phenomenon has its poignant aspects on account of the comparisons it should elicit. A one-term senator comes surging out of nowhere, sword in hand, promising to make everything bright and wonderful after years of darkness and despair. When did we see this show most recently? Was it 2008? Did not the American people that year buy and ship off to the White House the biggest pig-in-a-poke anyone ever saw -- untested, uninspected, but sure loud in praise of his own talents and qualities?
And did the porker, once sworn in as president, make things as bright and wonderful as we seemed to think he would? Had Obama achieved even a portion of all he promised, Texas' preferred candidate for president might be occupying a quiet House seat, submissive to the leadership of those he has presently marked out as his obstructers.
Inoculation against self-anointed saviors is a health measure that today's voters might be assumed to have acquired a while back. Which is nothing necessarily against Ted Cruz, for all the rashness and futility of his maiden attempt at leadership, namely, the filibuster he undertook as a political beginner, trying to cut off spending for Obamacare. My senator -- I am his constituent -- may be the real McCoy, or he may be just an expert hand with microphones. It's too soon to tell. He hasn't, frankly, been around very long. He hasn't done enough to allow a verdict on his native capacities.
Why now all the premature acts of fealty to the president-in-waiting from Texas? We can't remember what happens when voters accept a candidate's self-appraisal without efforts to untie the sack and peer within? What happens -- I hate to say it -- is that voters sometimes get what they didn't know they were voting for.