Imperial Japan taught its soldiers that death was preferable to surrender. The tea party’s code is similar: Stand firm, regardless of the odds of success or the consequences of failure. I’ve argued before that the struggle between the Republican establishment and the tea party is no longer about ideology — establishment figures have mostly coopted tea party views — but about temperament.
It has become the amiable vs. the angry, the civil vs. the uncivil, a conservatism of the head vs. a conservatism of the spleen. The division now is between those who would govern and those who would sooner burn the whole place to the ground — and in this struggle, McDaniel carries a torch.
As the economy continues its slow recovery, the ranks of the angry are shrinking, but there remains a sizable and outspoken minority that listens to conservative talk radio and embraces martyrdom. It should come as no surprise that McDaniel has been joined in his against-all-odds quest by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the architect of last year’s government shutdown. Cruz, on conservative host Mark Levin’s radio show, called the runoff “appalling” and condemned the “conduct of the Washington, D.C., machine.” (Cruz, as vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is part of that Washington machine, but he, like McDaniel, recognizes that his interests are in keeping faith with the tea party.)