“When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose”
It was hard to know what to make of last week’s news that Ted Cruz is running for President. This week, nobody cares.
Initially, the media wondered why he would do such a thing. They decided, why wouldn’t he? There’s not too much at stake. The young, idealistic, totally unprepared senator routine only works now and then and even when it does results are spotty. A day later, trying to generate a little more juice by using his only tactic, Cruz confused everyone again. This time he did it by signing up for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He’s been as clever and graceful in his intentions toward the ACA as a doberman is with a pound of horse meat.
He announced his candidacy at Liberty University before 10,000 captive students in the gymnasium. The university in Lynchburg, Virginia was founded by Cruz’ boyhood hero Jerry Falwell. Attendance at the rally was mandatory under penalty of a $10 fine.
Some in the media speculated that Cruz was hoping to appear decisive— a man of action. This makes Cruz look decisive like a mustache makes a 14 year old look manly. It’s strange, but let’s get it over with. Don’t take any pictures and there will be less to be embarrassed about later.
“Imagine millions of people of faith all across American coming out to the polls and voting our values?” Cruz said to the kids in the gym who certainly understood the value of ten bucks. Then, he talked about conservative purity. Thunder struck, the lights flickered, and a high ghostly laugh echoed through the gym.
Cruz is staking his claim on the bizarre fringe. But even the evangelicals aren’t sold. None but the end-times crowd would vote Cruz over Rand Paul if it came down to it. He’s out of the way, but as the only candidate, he creates a gutter that drains the flow of any productive national conversation. Therein lies the usefulness of his candidacy: anybody else will look reasonable in comparison. Even so, he’ll soon be gone. It’s always been a question of when, not if.
In keeping with his legacy, Cruz’ candidacy is symbolic, but it’s a win/win from a PR standpoint. The branding slime won’t have time to congeal by 2016, and raising money also presents a problem. Cruz-apologists in the media are already quick to remind: he could always try again. But it won’t be the same. It will never be NOW again. Richard Nixon turned the trick at the expense of his soul. Mitt Romney couldn’t pull it off and he shows the scars. Either way lies madness. And while Cruz is most assuredly weird, he is still a man that bleeds. He’s not like Nixon or Romney, or even Lincoln Goodheart.
Episode 143 of the The Dick Van Dyke Show is called “The Making of a Councilman.” In it, Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) runs for New Rochelle city council against Lincoln Goodheart (Wally Cox), a slight, retiring fellow who has lost the city council race numerous times in spite of his obvious qualifications. Rob wants to quit and hand the race to Goodheart but he is talked out of it. Sure enough, Rob wins with his charm. The episode was written by Carl Kleinschmitt and Dale McRaven and directed by Jerry Paris. It aired January 26, 1966, during the show’s fifth and final season.
Director and sometime actor Lee Philips liked the plot so much he seems to have borrowed it and shot it twice more, at least. Philips directed a number of shows that were popular at the time including a handful of Dick Van Dyke Show episodes. Most notably, he directed 60 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show including episode 197, “Politics Begin at Home.” It involves Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) running for the city council against the more qualified Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson). Aunt Bee concedes, so it’s not quite the same story. The episode was written by Fred S. Fox and aired November 7, 1966.
Philips also directed episode 72 of The Partridge Family, “The Selling of the Partridge,” in which Keith (David Cassidy) runs against the bright but uncharismatic Phyllis Goldberg (Holly Near). Keith realizes that Phyllis would make the better student body president and tries to concede but is elected anyway, because like Rob Petrie, he’s a charming guy. This variation of the story aired March 9, 1973 and was written by Steve Zacharius and Michael Leeson.
The song featured in the episode, “There’ll Come a Time” was written by David Cassidy. In his autobiography, Cassidy goes to some lengths to assure the reader that he was nothing like Keith Partridge. He says he was was into LSD and Jimi Hendrix. There’s no reason to think he wasn’t, but you might not guess it on the evidence of “There’ll Come A Time.” The contraction in the title is a little clunky, otherwise it’s pure Partridge Family. Of course Cassidy wouldn’t write a some heavy dope music for the Partridge’s, if he wrote such music at all.
The last season of The Dick Van Dyke Show, in which the highly influential “The Making of a Councilman” aired, also featured two episodes written by Joseph Bonaduce. He was the father of Danny Bonaduce, who played Danny on The Partridge Family. Apparently, Joseph resented Danny’s success and they had a bad relationship.
Thinking of success as a zero-sum business meted out by the brutal hand of destiny was the sad and typical flaw in Joseph’s thinking. Hopefully, for his own sake, Ted Cruz doesn’t feel the same way. If things don’t go his way in the political theater he ought to at least be able to generate enough buzz to one day found a university with a big gymnasium. Jerry Falwell did it twice.