My rip-roaring social life allows me to watch Air Disasters, a program on one of those cable channels skipped over by millions. Each episode analyzes and documents the cause behind the tragic destruction of a plane loaded with human life. Each story revolves around a small thing – a screw, a wire, a microscopic air bubble – that over a period of time went unattended and then went on to trigger a series of regrettable, irreversible events. The screw suddenly pops at the wrong time at the wrong place. A wire long-frayed blows. A microscopic air bubble balloons into disaster. Perhaps the very design of the plane itself lends itself to ruin.
Ted Cruz’ win last night to become the nominee of the Texas Republican Party for the Senate was a hard-earned victory that was a very personal triumph for him. But it speaks more to what Texas Democrats did – or did not do – years ago to avert catastrophe, which is what the 41-year-old Cruz is for them. For years, the decision-makers in the party that once dominated political life in Texas began to commit the mistakes that have now caused a historic crash that will reverberate for decades, yes, decades to come. The beatdown that Cruz gave the incumbent lieutenant governor last night is nothing compared to the beatdown Cruz has given to Texas Democrats who believed that demography alone would bring their state back into the blue column.
Some Texas Democrats have long argued that the numbers exist now for their party to restructure itself and win. They are right. But most decision-makers who have caused disaster upon disaster remain relevant enough to continue to screw things up instead of coming up with a new design altogether. So it was that for years the concentration of political know-it-alls in Austin sat on their cosmic cowboy culture and allowed things to drift. As each once-Democratic white voter left the party, a Hispanic/Latino voter was there, ready to take the place of the departed. But nothing happened. Not only did a new design not get to the drawing board but old screws were left unattended, the party’s wiring began to frazzle and empty rhetoric spewed as ineffectively as ever before into the air.
To be fair, nothing much happened in the HispanicLatino community either. It is liberal orthodoxy to not blame the victim, except that even victims are responsible for their own lives – though, to complete the circle, some Democratic strategists continue to believe that they have to win in the same ways they once won, that is, appealing to a white voter population that is diminishing in number. One illusion fed another.
And so retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sánchez had the idea to run for the Democratic nomination for the Senate. Democrats in Washington did not recruit him. But here was the unconventional Democrat whom conventional Democrats could not stomach. Had he gotten minimal support – just minimal support – from the established circles, he today might have had a chance in a contest that the national press and media would have helped transform. But Sánchez got nothing from Austin or Washington, and, had he himself been experienced as a candidate, instead of hands wringing this morning across the state they might have been ringing him instead.
So now, instead of arriving at an interesting inflection point, Texas Democrats have crashed, utterly crashed. Cruz is a young Chris Christie who can communicate, and he will attract enough HispanicLatino voters to deflect the demographic advantage the Democrats thought they were going to enjoy.
And so on the same day that San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, 38, thought to be a rising star in Texas and therefore the nation, was tapped to keynote the Democratic National Convention in four weeks on national television it must have crossed the mind of the 36-year-old George P. Bush to run statewide in two years.
Cruz has turned the political world upside down. He almost singlehandedly has rewritten history, starting potentially with this year’s election, in which he and the equally shinning faces of Marco Rubio of Florida, Susana King of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada will be highlighted at the Republican convention along with George P. Bush himself to create the marketing illusion around which politics revolve and how elections are won.
On the Democratic side, a different illusion crashed.