You’re going to watch the clip below of Bennet’s histrionics and think, “What does this guy think he’s doing, running for president?”
Well, guess what. He’s learned an important lesson from Betomania!, namely, that the junior senator from Texas is a good enemy to have when you’re trying to make a national name for yourself among Democrats.
Congrats to him, I guess, on having somehow out-grandstanded Ted Cruz. His stemwinder is effective, though, in the sense that he zeroes in on the 2013 shutdown, which really is the right reference point for the current standoff. In two senses. One: It showed that blocking funding to force the other side to make a prized policy concession doesn’t work, and really can’t. It’s a form of extortion, and only a chump would agree to pay a ransom and not expect to be asked to pay another soon. Two: It also showed that there’s no political cost in losing a standoff, rather the contrary. Bennet rightly points out that the renown Cruz earned on the populist right for his doomed shutdown play six years ago was rewarded with second place in the Iowa caucuses in 2016. Except he’s underselling it: Cruz won Iowa, and may have won a lot more than that if he hadn’t been out-populist-ed by an upstart named Trump. The 2013 shutdown showed righties that Cruz was willing to fight for a pet cause, blocking ObamaCare, even though there was never a prayer that he’d succeed, even at the price of earning the enmity of the rest of the country for doing so. The point wasn’t to win, it was to show resolve, and in that sense it was wildly successful, which is why these pointless shutdowns keep happening.
Same with Trump right now. If the point was to win, after all, he’d have forced Ryan and McConnell to fund the wall sometime in the past two years when it would have been easy.
One style point about Bennet, because I can’t resist: He sounds to me (and even looks) a bit like Bill Murray in “Caddyshack.” I assume this is just how he naturally speaks, but if you told me that he’d had a few beers at lunch I wouldn’t scoff much. This is just a taste of his harangue too; the guy went on for 24 minutes, if you can believe it. That’s got to be worth one percent in the next Iowa caucuses, which of course Bennet certainly wasn’t thinking about when he made this speech. That clip is followed by Cruz’s rebuttal, which isn’t as histrionic but which involves a raised voice too at moments. Cruz’s point is ultimately simple and correct: Democrats aren’t standing firm for weeks through a grinding shutdown over a $5 billion outlay because they’re horrified by Trump’s proposal. They’re doing it to spite him. There’s nothing grander to what’s happening right now than that.