Beyond Dowd's Vision of Thunderdome

In her recent piece in the New York Times, "Welcome to Ted Cruz's Thunderdome," Maureen Dowd peers through her leftist lens into a dystopian 2084 (hardly a subtle or original choice), where conservatives have poisoned American ideology and introduced a mutant political virus that destroyed our world. 

In her tale, a man sits with his boy in this desolate future, and the boy wonders how this all could have happened.  In 2013, the father explains, "[i]t started very small with a petty fight over a six-week spending bill but quickly mushroomed out of control."  The GOP had been infected with an ideological virus called the "Sarahcuda Strain after the earliest carrier," and this resultant de-evolution caused lower brain function and the abandonment of high-minded progressivism.  America later became a shell of its former self, with apes sitting at the Lincoln Memorial reminding us all how far we had fallen.

The message and narrative are simple enough, and the column itself is little more than a patchwork of references to previous works dedicated to the "post-apocalyptic world" science fiction trope, including Mad Max, World War Z, Matheson's I am Legend, McCarthy's The Road, Collins's The Hunger Games, and Planet of the Apes (and not the good version, but the silly Tim Burton remake).  For someone so revered in "intellectual" circles, one might think Dowd would lean more on her own ideas rather than pillaging others' creativity.  But that's not the column's biggest problem.

The fundamental flaw in Dowd's piece cannot be overshadowed by recycled hyperbole.  While taking her readers down the path of unreality, Dowd's confusion about reality is summed up in this line, eight paragraphs in: "Thomas Jefferson's utopia devolved into Ted Cruz's dystopia."

That Thomas Jefferson thought he created, or even sought to create, a federal government bureaucracy dedicated to building and preserving utopia might be news to any historian.  He was famously distrustful of a centralized government, and he actually believed that rebellion and bloodshed against such a government every so often would be necessary to preserve individual liberty, an act "as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."

The safety of liberty, Jefferson argues, rests in the Tenth Amendment:

I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That "all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the People." To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.

As the Constitution never explicitly delegates power to the federal government over an individual citizen's health care, nor does it explicitly delegate power to ensure that citizens are secure their own health care insurance, this is a giant leap "beyond the boundaries drawn around the powers of Congress."  How, then, can it be construed that Cruz's efforts to thwart ObamaCare would run afoul of Jefferson's vision? 

And even if Justice Roberts is right in his lonesome opinion that this seizure of power is a "tax" (and, despite not originating in the House, as is necessary per the Origination Clause, somehow constitutional), Cruz would still be aligned with Jefferson's vision.

In reality, though, Jefferson supported progressive consumption taxes (usually at the state level and usually in the form of tariffs upon goods enjoyed by the wealthy), he was so fierce an opponent of direct federal taxation that when elected, he repealed all direct federal taxes imposed by the Federalists and boasted that "ordinary Americans would never see a federal tax collector in their whole lives."  He was sadly wrong about that, but to think that Jefferson might approve of Obama raising an army of thousands of new tax collectors to enforce the greatest federal tax increase in history?  There's just no excuse for ignorance of that sort.

If Dowd thinks Cruz a radical for taking to the Senate floor with his legitimate grievances about ObamaCare and the underhanded manner in which it was imposed upon the American people, I wonder what she might say about Virginian Patrick Henry's response to the Stamp Act of 1765, which whipped American colonists into an anti-British fervor?  Britain, trying to raise tax revenue to pay for the French and Indian War, from which the American colonies benefited, issued an edict requiring a government stamp on newspapers, legal documents, and other items.  According to historian H.W. Crocker III, Patrick Henry:

... used the Stamp Act to declare that as Caesar had his Brutus and King Charles I his Cromwell so too would "some good American stand up in favor of his country." When the burgesses interrupted Henry with calls of "Treason!" he replied, "If this be treason, make the most of it."

For something as simple as requiring a government stamp on most documents in the colonies, Henry called for the death of the king.  That is how fervent our Founders were in opposing tyranny and a powerful centralized government.

Henry was indeed a radical in his time, but to put it bluntly, if the Stamp Act were a molehill of tyranny, ObamaCare would be the Swiss Alps.  It is an unprecedented government seizure of power and authority.  Private businesses must conform to its myriad regulations or be punished.  Individuals must do likewise and, beyond that, must suffer in other ways.  Citizens are already losing their jobs, having their hours cut, losing health benefits for their families, having benefits become drastically more expensive, risking the loss of their doctors, being forced into the bill's contraception and abortion mandates against their will, and in perhaps the greatest affront to American liberty in the history of our nation, government bureaucrats, in an aptly named "death panel," will soon appraise individuals and deem them worthy of life or death in the context of a collectivized, and highly centralized government regime.  And to add insult to our impending misery, our federal overseers have exempted themselves, absolutely refusing to take part in a law that they insist is so good for Americans.

Yet Ted Cruz and conservatives in Congress are "extremists" and "radicals" for using constitutional procedure and exercising its explicitly detailed constitutional right to introduce revenue legislation in line with its constituents' desires? 

Of course not.  It's all nonsense.  It, like most rhetoric employed by the left, is a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the fact that it is the progressive zealots and their masters who are hurtling us toward that dystopian future, and it is they who are perpetually distancing us from America's founding vision -- not the other way around.

The truth is that Thomas Jefferson and Ted Cruz share a very similar vision for America.  In fact, Ted Cruz is today called a conservative, as I am, because he looks to "conserve" the vision of Jefferson and the Founders.  He merely seeks to thwart efforts to transform America into a centralized bureaucratic state that it were never meant to be.

I could begin hypothesizing about how this dystopian future caused by such a centralized bureaucratic state will look by presenting a series of pop culture and sci-fi references, but that's been done to death and, frankly, not altogether useful.

William Sullivan blogs at: and can be followed on Twitter.