Column | Sept. 26
Finishing at 21 hours and 19 minutes, Sen. Ted Cruz ’92 may have broken the record for longest campaign announcement speech in history. This past Tuesday, as the University celebrated the 100th birthday of famous past Princeton student F. Scott Fitzgerald, another alumnus, Senator Ted Cruz, made tidal waves in the press.
While Cruz did not actually announce a presidential run or even allude to his future political ambitions, it is clear that what went on was merely narcissistic play, lacking any connection to his stated goal of ending Obamacare.
On Sept. 30, the current fiscal year ends, and a government shutdown will follow unless a new spending resolution is passed before then. Earlier this week, the House had passed a bill that would continue to fund the federal government. Included in the bill was a provision that would defund Obamacare, weeks before enrollment for benefits begin.
In response, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called for a vote to strip that provision and re-send the bill back to the house. However, before the Senate could vote to start debate on the resolution, Cruz took to the senate floor. Attempting to stall the bill, he proclaimed that he was ready to “speak in opposition of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.”
Now I’ll admit, there are valid arguments for and against Obama’s healthcare reform bill, passed in 2009. Cruz’s disapproval of Obamacare is not a reason for chastising. That being said, wasting 21 hours and 19 minutes of floor time is.
This is no “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The filibuster serves to protect minority rights in the face of supermajorities. However, unlike the lone statesman pitted against the establishment, Cruz is not trying to “Love thy neighbor,” but rather is pushing against a bill that would continue to fund the federal government, preventing a government shutdown.
What’s even more painful is that Cruz knew ahead of time that procedural rules would force his speech to end Wednesday afternoon. Unlike a real filibuster, it had zero chance of succeeding from the beginning. Rather than attempting to accomplish a significant policy achievement, he was merely rallying his base. And it is this very concept, that I feel, defies what it means to be a Princetonian.
Not only do his actions fly in the face of most of the other members of the Senate, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called Cruz’s 21-hour speech a “big waste of time,” but Cruz’s actions also go against the views of many other Republicans including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip John Cornyn, who thought he had taken the wrong approach. His desire to push forward, even when it is almost unanimously agreed upon that his actions are merely a waste of time, is unsettling.
The motto “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations” alludes to a social responsibility to benefit not just ourselves, but those around us. While there may be different ways to achieve this end, the motto should especially hit close to home to those in public service. Granted no two students think exactly alike, and many, if they are ever in public service, will believe that there are different ways to better society.
Yet with achieving zero personal major legislative accomplishments, causing more partisanship in the Senate, and trying to shut down the government, I fail to see how Sen. Cruz has so far best served our nation.
Instead, in his speech, he compared his fellow Republicans to the complacent Neville Chamberlain of the 1940s, who allowed Nazi Germany to expand in influence, and made comparisons to Star Wars with “the Empire being the D.C. establishment.”
While the Star Wars reference may be somewhat amusing, I fear that this kind of rhetoric and political approach is only further fueling the acidic and unflattering environment that has plagued Washington, D.C. in the past several years. As Princeton students, who may one day be in similar situations of power, I think we need to not only be aware of what is happening, but also recognize the toxicity of such a firebrand approach — and if ever put in that situation, serve beyond our own interests.
Beyond the political buzz and media headlines, two days later, the sun is still rising and the spending bill is still being looked at in the same light that it had been looked at before. It appears that the only thing that has truly changed is Ted Cruz’s reputation.
When Woodrow Wilson gave his speech, titled “Princeton in the Nation’s Service,” which would eventually become our unofficial school motto, he highlighted the “spirit of service” as what would “give a college place in the public annals of the nation.” In light of this, Wilson must be rolling in his grave, knowing that Senator Cruz — blessed with the power to make a meaningful difference — has just wasted 21 hours and 9 minutes working for the betterment of himself, rather than the nation.
Benjamin Dinovelli is a sophomore from Mystic, Conn. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.