Most people, whether Democrat or Republican, agree that Ted Cruz’s planned filibuster in the Senate is doomed. It will do nothing to stop Obamacare’s inexorable path towards implementation. (To understand precisely what the filibuster is about, Ace has a good, short explanation.)
Because Ted Cruz is nobody’s fool, I’m guessing that he too knows that it won’t stop Obamacare from getting fully implemented within the next few months. Why, then, is Cruz engaged in this quixotic effort? I think I have the answer, but you’ll have to bear with me, because it involves taking a little trip back, back in time . . . to the Battle of Thermopylae.
At the beginning of the 5th Century B.C., the Persian Empire was the largest nation in the ancient world. When Athens and Sparta refused to yield to its demand that the entire Ionian peninsula submit to Persian rule, its emperor, Xerxes, decided on a full-scale attack to bring these arrogant Greeks to heel.
The Persian forces, having bridge the Hellespont, were advancing overland to the pass at Thermopylae. The Spartans, by inclination, temperament, and default, were quite obviously going to be the military leaders in any engagement with Persia. Thermopylae was therefore where the Spartans intended to take a stand.
Although history remembers “the 300” Spartans who stood at the front of the line, the various Greek city-states managed to contribute another 7,000 or so troops to stand against the Persians at this hot, narrow pass. Even 7,000 troops, though, was a frighteningly small showing against the tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) that Xerxes commanded.
King Leonidas of Sparta had a simple battle plan. He placed his 300 warriors at the entrance to the pass, and stationed another 1,000 Phocians on the heights to prevent the Persians from outflanking the waiting Spartan force. The remaining Greek troops were massed behind the Spartans.
When the Persian army finally appeared, Xerxes first send an emissary to negotiate with Leonidas. The Greeks were told that, if they subordinated themselves to Persia, they would be moved to better land than their own Greece. Leonidas refused, understanding that, when you’re a slave, there is no such thing as “better land.”
The ambassador insisted more forcefully that the Spartans and their allies lay down their arms. Leonidas’ response has echoed through the ages: “Come and take them.” (Μολὼν λαβέ or “Molan Labe”.) The Persian ambassador then threatened that “Our arrows will block out the sun,” to which Leonidas’s general replied “Then we shall have our battle in the shade.” Battle was inevitable.
I won’t humiliate myself or bore you by describing those three long days at Thermopylae. Suffice to say that it was brutal and bloody, and that every single one of Sparta’s 300 died that day. Another 2,000 Greeks died along with the Spartans. Importantly for history’s sake, though, is the fact 20,000 Persians died that day as well. Persia was not defeated but, as reports of the battle filtered out, every single Greek city-state learned that the Persians could be defeated.
Even though the Persians continued their triumphant march forward, the Greek’s were roused by the heroism and sacrifice of the Spartans and their allies. Although the Persians moved forward, conquering Greek lands as they went, the Greeks abandoned submission and fatalism. Instead, looking to Thermopylae for inspiration, they fought back. They viewed themselves, not as future Persian slaves, but as free men fighting for their country. Eventually, the Greeks did defeat the Persian Empire, and went on to become a great empire themselves, laying the foundation for much of our western culture.
Even now, 2,500 years later, the Spartans’ brave stand at Thermopylae still has the power to inspire us. Victory wasn’t the point. The point was to fight and to educate Greeks about their merciless enemy and its overwhelming drive for power. Leonidas and his men may have died there, but their ghosts led the Greeks to eventual victory.
Which gets me back to Ted Cruz and his buddies in the Senate. They’re not stupid. They know that this filibuster will be futile. But they know two other things as well: Filibusters grab headlines, which gives them a golden opportunity to lift the cone of silence that the mainstream media places between Republicans and voters.
Under the current media regime, Republican arguments and statements get to the voters only if small fry Republicans get arrested, or say something “provocative” about gay marriage or abortion. Other than that, most voters would be hard pressed to know what conservatives politicians and thinkers are saying.
Imagine someone as intelligent and articulate as Ted Cruz – a man who has a knack for clearly stating complex principles – speaking directly to the voters about Obamacare, without the media acting as his “interpretor.” And remember, if he does filibuster, he’ll be speaking to voters who, for the most part, are already beginning to realize that, with Obamacare, they’ve been sold a bill of goods.
Absent a miracle, Cruz will lose on the filibuster. The Republican establishment will start bleating out “I told you so” on every “news” show they can find. And Obamacare will go forward.
But here’s what Cruz also knows: Obamacare will be a disaster. We know that for certain. Indeed, the best evidence you need is Congress’s frantic effort to ward off Obamacare in its own marbled halls. If that’s not enough, look at the diminution in choice, the price increases for the middle class, the lost jobs, the lost insurance coverage, and the downward adjustments in working hours. We, the people, are going to be badly hurt by Obamacare.
Americans aren’t going to learn about the nasty stuff hiding in Obamacare until they experience it first hand. What was an abstract political fight in Washington, D.C. will become a genuine problem in their day-to-day lives. And that’s when Ted Cruz will pop back up again and say (nicely, of course), “Remember me? I tried to warn you and I tried to help. Trust me to have the courage and the wisdom to fix this. But this time, you have to stand with me to win the battle.”
The filibuster is Cruz’s Thermopylae. He knows that, whether he wins or loses, in the long term he will be the victor. When it all falls apart, Ted Cruz will be seen and remembered for coming down on the side of sanity and freedom.