Ted Cruz wants to be king: Make no mistake, the GOP extremists’ real goal is absolute control

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tags: election 2016, Ted Cruz



Heather Cox Richardson is the author of "To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party," amongst several other books, and a professor of history at Boston College.

As Republicans in Washington struggle over who will assume the duties of the Speaker of the House, pundits plot the rise and fall of the candidates with blow-by-blow doggedness. But behind the story of political jockeying within the Republican Party is a much larger issue. The Movement Conservatives now calling the shots in the Republican Party are forcing the nation toward a Constitutional crisis. A very small number of extremists are trying to bend the federal government to their will. They want to force the president to abandon his own policies and adopt theirs. If he refuses to cave in to their demands to kill Planned Parenthood, they will refuse to fund the government. They will force it to shut down. The thirty or forty people in the secretive “House Freedom Caucus,” elected by voters only from their own deeply Republican districts, want to erase the constitutional role of the president. They want to impose their will on the American people.

They have deliberately set out to destroy the American constitutional system.

This is not the first time the America government has seen such an assault. The nation faced a similar crisis after the Civil War. Then, Americans saw the threat for what it was. That the revolutionaries were attempting a political coup was obvious. Only twenty years before the very same men had tried to dismember the United States government using cannons and rifles. The crisis of 1879 looks much the same as today’s, although the Republicans and Democrats have traded positions.

In 1879, Democrats took control of Congress for the first time since the 1850s. Voters had backed Democratic candidates primarily because of a deep recession that they blamed on the Republicans in power. A small cabal of former Confederates within the party, though, insisted they had a mandate to reverse the course the country had taken since they had seceded in 1861. They set out to return the South to white control once and for all. “The great blunder of our section was in abandoning our seats in Congress in 1861,” one Democratic representative told the New York Times. The better plan was to seize control of Congress and run the entire United States.

To that end, the 1879 revolutionaries had a simple plan. They would refuse to fund the government unless the Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes took the few remaining the U.S. Army troops out of the South (that the troops were removed in 1877 as part of a corrupt bargain is a myth). These men forced a weak Speaker of the House, the long-forgotten Pennsylvania Democrat Samuel J. Randall, to attach riders to a series of routine appropriations bills, one after the other. These riders ended military protection in the South for African American voting. They made holding federal troops at the polls punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment at hard labor for three months to five years; that is, an express ride into the Southern convict labor system that by then was brutalizing freedmen. Essentially, the riders reestablished the Democratic white supremacist policies Republicans had spent almost twenty years uprooting. Democrats planned to force Republican President Hayes to choose between caving to their demands or to leaving government obligations unpaid. They gambled that he would sign the bills to keep the government afloat.

But he didn’t. ...




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