Our federal government doesn’t work, at least not the Congress, not the way it should if we’re going to preserve and pass on the treasure and blessings that were bequeathed to us, not the way it should if we’re going to strut around ceaselessly congratulating ourselves on how exceptional we are. We’re exceptional all right, in that we can’t summon the will, discipline or character to fix even those problems that most of us would like to see addressed. How many Americans doubt that our infrastructure is inadequate and leaves us at a serious global disadvantage? Few, but for all our hand-wringing, little gets done.

We’re exceptional in the billions of dollars that we pour into elections. All those commercials, air miles, speechifying and tweeting — and for what? We’ve spent a fortune on sclerosis, a king’s ransom on dysfunction. Then again, the money is a big part of the problem. In America your hobbyhorse can be a lonely, mangy one. Finance it generously enough and it has Secretariat’s stride.

We’ve let passion overtake reason: the recipe for disaster in all the Greek and Shakespearean tragedies we read back in school. The tragedy is now us. It matters less in American politics today if your cause is just or your logic sound than if you can raise a telegenic ruckus, if you’re enamored enough of your own voice to say whatever brings a microphone its way. That’s the moral of Ted Cruz, who has behaved amorally here.