--Random House Dictionary
Just in case you missed it, last week United States Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) secured his place in American history by speaking on the floor of that august legislative body for 21 hours and 19 minutes straight, the fourth longest filibuster ever. No stops. No breaks. No interruptions, though it makes me wonder just how and if he went to the bathroom. But that’s another column.
Why Cruz’s tireless tirade? He wants to defund, stop, halt, do all he can, anything he can, to derail “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA), passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2010. You know, the healthcare law, the most significant overhaul of our country’s healthcare system since Medicare and Medicaid passed in 1965.
PPACA’s goals are pretty simple and good: to ensure access to affordable health insurance and health care for the 48.6 million Americans who lack coverage. Minimum wage workers, young adults, day laborers, independent contractors, the unemployed, folks who work for companies that either cannot or do not provide insurance, eight million children.
The law seeks to bring a measure of security and peace of mind to every last American citizen, anyone who gets sick, anyone who worries about whether a trip to the doctor or hospital spells doom, and not just for the body but also for the wallet. But apparently, in Cruz’s opinion “ObamaCare” (as he calls it) will instead lead to the downfall of the republic, the bankruptcy of the federal government, and the apocalypse.
As Cruz said in his filibuster, “I rise today in opposition to ObamaCare…to speak for 26 million Texans and for 300 million Americans. All across this country Americans are suffering because of ObamaCare….By any measure ObamaCare is a far less intimidating foe than those I have discussed (Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, etc.), with the possible exception of the Moon. The Moon might be as intimidating.” Hmmm. The moon?
He continued, in no particular order: “Duck Dynasty is one of the most popular shows on TV. It is about a God-fearing family of successful entrepreneurs who love guns, who love to hunt and believe in the American dream.” And, “I am a big fan of eating White Castle burgers.” Cruz also read "Green Eggs and Ham". Guess when you have 1,279 minutes to fill, you wing it.
Did I mention he also held up some other rather important government business? Funding the government so it won’t shut down. Raising the debt limit so Uncle Sam won’t default on trillions of dollars in debt, which could rock the markets and even destabilize the entire world economy.
Cruz’s filibuster did fail. The Senate finally voted to get back to business. But the sideshow plays on and Cruz and his apostles—who just as rabidly also want to trash health care for all—they are still in the game. Even though the health care law is the law already. Even though a government shut down won’t derail the PPACA—it is exempt from defunding. Even though the President has made it clear he will veto any bill killing or altering the law. Most ironic of all is that Cruz represents the state with the absolute worst record of caring for the uninsured, Texas, where 24 percent of his constituents lack any coverage, including almost 1.4 million kids. (Massachusetts’ coverage rate is 96 percent.)
So here’s my unadulterated take on the honorable Senator from the Lone Star state and his historic histrionics. Cruz is crazy. Crazy, as in willing to crash down an entire government and the largest economy in the world all to make a point—or perhaps more important for him, to win an election, to get on the TV news shows, to light up Twitter, and to be the darling of his equally rabid disciples.
The most ominous thing of all is that there is crazy funny and then there’s crazy scary. Cruz may have finally stopped talking but his act, his shtick, his performance, he and his ilk? They are still standing, spoiling for a fight. For there is much more at stake in the health care debate than just whether or not we as a society can care for the least among us: the vulnerable, the young, the economically exposed, the sick. Call me crazy but as a person of faith I want to see every last American cared for.
The craziest thing of all is that Cruz and those of his political stripe do not seem to care one bit about the fundamental question of whether or not we as a nation can even govern ourselves anymore. The answer to that challenge, more than any one law, is what really needs to be debated.
Will the crazies win? God help us all.
The Reverend John F. Hudson is Senior Pastor of the Pilgrim Church, United Church of Christ, in Sherborn (pilgrimsherborn.org). If you have a word or idea you’d like defined in a future column or have comments, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of The Dover-Sherborn Press (Dover-Sherborn@cnc.com).