Obamacare, Ted Cruz, and the Line in the Sand

Dr. Thomas Sowell, in his recent column for National Review, asserts that the effort to defund Obamacare is an unnecessary "distraction" which serves only to help the president and Democrats.  He argues that now is "the worst time, politically, for Barack Obama since he took office," and to focus on the futile task of defunding Obamacare, risking a potential government shutdown, diverts attention from other scandals surrounding the president.

He concedes that Obamacare is "an economic disaster and will be a medical disaster, as well as destroying the Constitution's protections of American citizens from the unbridled power of the federal government." Yet knowing that these terrible outcomes are at stake, he concludes (emphasis added):

But, for the same reason it makes no sense to impeach either President Obama or Chief Justice John Roberts, it makes no sense to attempt to defund ObamaCare.  That reason is that it cannot be done. The world is full of things that ought to be done but cannot in fact be done.  [...]

There is a United States of America today only because George Washington understood that his army was not able to fight the British everywhere, but had to choose carefully when and where to fight. Futile symbolic confrontations were not a luxury that could be afforded then and cannot be afforded now.

I have tremendous respect for Dr. Sowell.  He has been perhaps the single greatest influence in cultivating my understanding of conservative economics.  However, I have a fundamental problem with his chosen analogy here.

Washington had options in devising his military strategy.  For example, other sites were considered as winter refuge for the colonial army before he decided to march his troops to Valley Forge.  He could have chosen a different date and time to cross the Delaware to attack at Trenton, and so on. Washington never engaged in a "futile symbolic confrontation" because, thankfully, he never had to.  A "futile symbolic confrontation" is typically an act of desperation, and it is rarely, if ever, a "luxury." Having the option to do otherwise, however, sometimes is. 

And options are not a luxury we conservatives have.  We have been under siege, and are now surrounded, awaiting the coming salvos of Obamacare implementation which will decimate American liberty.  Government bureaucrats stand ready to sign up millions of new dependents to the government healthcare rolls, whose only job will be to vote for Democrats in the coming elections to ensure continued benefits -- which by hook, crook, or Democrat-organized bussing to the polls, they will do.  IRS agents are standing by, ready to lay down the fiscal hammer of "social justice" on small business owners and individuals with the audacity to not conform to a bill so convoluted that no member of Congress read it before passage, and navigating its intricacies is the subject of a New York Times bestseller

We conservatives have been cornered by ideological zealots bent on transforming our nation and our healthcare at any cost, however underhanded and nefarious, and we have rarely been defended with any such zeal.  Now, on the threshold of imminent defeat, we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having no option but to either surrender or fight on the ground upon which we now stand. And we must choose, even though both paths will likely lead to the same terrible outcome that Sowell describes. 

And in this regard, maybe it's not George Washington we should be looking to as an example in this particular moment.  Maybe it's William Barrett Travis.

Whatever the genesis of the metaphor, most Americans know what it means to "draw a line in the sand," and know its context in the Battle of the Alamo.  Fighting for Texas' independence, Lieutenant Colonel William Barrett Travis, a 26 year old lawyer in command of fewer than 200 soldiers at the San Antonio mission-turned-fort, was surrounded by several thousand Mexican soldiers under the command of General Santa Ana.  Travis called his men together on the afternoon prior to the final Mexican onslaught.  Drawing his sword, he drew a line in the dirt.  "I now want every man who is willing to stay here and die with me to come across this line," he said. 

The act itself is likely a bit of storyteller flourish, but enshrined in his final letters (which I would urge all Americans to read if they have not) is evidence that, line or no line, to fight for liberty against insurmountable odds or die was Travis' aim, and his men valiantly followed his example.  It is the stuff of legends -- courage that may well be remembered for millennia, no less timeless an example of humanity's greatest qualities than the Battle of Thermopylae where Leonidas led his 300 Spartans against Persian hordes.

And that sacrifice, however futile the confrontation may have been for the Texians who fought there, produced a practical benefit.  "Remember the Alamo!" became a battle cry, rallying emboldened Texians as they won their independence at the Battle of San Jacinto.  It was a key moment in our history.  Rephrasing Sowell's conclusion above, Texas may be a state and not a Mexican province today only because William Travis and the men of the Alamo had the resolve to take a stand for what is right in that critical moment in history when they faced certain defeat.  Or to put it yet another way, again rephrasing Sowell, winning the Battle of the Alamo was one of those things that could not be done -- but there was, in fact, definitive value in their having taken up the "futile symbolic confrontation."

The metaphor of "the line in the sand" has use the realm of politics.  Mike Cox of TexasEscapes.com explains it this way, writing that the "line-in-the-sand metaphor gets its power because it represents something that is absolutely true: Making a courageous decision often comes with a high price." He goes on, "[i]t might cost your life or your office, but chances are, someday you will be remembered for doing the right thing by crossing that figurative line in the sand."

In America, doing "the right thing" should not come at a high political price.  But here we are, at a crossroads where another Texan, Senator Ted Cruz, must do the right thing and draw a figurative line in the sand for his compatriots to cross -- if they be courageous and on the side of liberty.  The American people clearly do not want Obamacare, and Republicans, who have run and been elected since 2010 on a platform of protecting Americans from it, now have a choice.  Do what they think to be politically expedient in Washington politics, or to do what we contracted them to do -- fight for us on Capitol Hill against Obamacare.

Prominent Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and fellow Texan John Cornyn (for whom I also voted) are among those who've chosen not to stand and fight with Cruz in this crucial moment, but to criticize him, and stand among Harry Reid and Democrats in securing funding for Obamacare.  They have reportedly rallied Republicans against Cruz to shut down debate and allow Reid and the Senate Democrats to easily gut the House bill with a straight-majority cloture vote that Republicans cannot logistically challenge.  For all practical purposes, this is no different, if not much more sinister, than a simple vote to fund Obamacare. 

Though I'm certain that as a matter of political optics, McConnell and Cornyn will both be happy to vote against the bill with Reid's amendment to fund Obamacare once it is a useless show vote.

But make no mistake, Senators.  We won't be fooled.  We will be watching intently, to see which among you choose to cross that line and stand with us and Senator Cruz in the fray, and which among you choose to scale the walls and leave us alone to our fate and Obamacare's destructive new implements, from which you've so carefully exempted yourselves. 

And we will remember it well when we exercise our liberty at the polls in 2014.

William Sullivan blogs at: http://politicalpalaverblog.blogspot.com and can be followed on Twitter.