Admiral Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz’s filibuster was impressive. Naysayers claim that it was pointless because Obamacare won’t be defunded this year with a Senate and White House controlled by Democrats. But at a minimum, Cruz and supporting senators have highlighted the huge flaws in the health law and reminded everyone of its unpopularity. If Republicans actually want to repeal the law—as they all say they do—then they need to take every opportunity to hammer away at it.

Cruz is essentially asking his fellow Republicans to stand up or shut up with respect to Obamacare. His maverick strategy has offended some of his colleagues, but what’s the alternative if you want to actually create change in Washington? All the commissions and other establishment efforts in recent years to cut spending and debt, for example, have come up far short. And simply passing Obamacare repeal bills through the House won’t work by itself.

So Cruz is trying something different. He is saying that Republicans in the House and the Senate should draw a hard line and not budge. He is saying that Republicans ought to be playing to win, not just to score points with their constituents.

We will see where this goes, but it takes entrepreneurs to change the dynamics of a situation. They may succeed or fail at their particular goal, but they often change the path of events and open new possibilities. With Obamacare set to wreak havoc on the health care system and the nation headed toward fiscal disaster, every attempt to change course should be welcomed.

The history of the British Navy, as I learned from this book, provides some relevant lessons. From the 1500s to the 1800s, the navy was blessed with a succession of bold leaders who defeated opponents in France, Spain, and Holland over and over again. Many had a background in privateering, and so they were conditioned to be entrepreneurial and to seize opportunities when they arose.

In numerous battles—such as Trafalgar in 1805—the British had fewer ships than their opponents, but they more than made up for it by the bravery of the admirals, captains, and sailors. The British had a strong sense of what they were fighting for, and they believed their cause was righteous. Citizens and sailors rallied around aggressive navy leaders who showed determination to bring the battle to their opponents and to win.       

It’s pretty obvious in recent years that House and Senate Republican leaders haven’t shown much boldness in fighting for limited government. Of course, many Republican members don’t seem to believe much in limited government, at least judging by their voting records. So there has been a big political void, and now entrepreneurs like Senators Cruz and Rand Paul are trying to fill it.

Admiral Horatio Nelson famously told his men before Trafalgar that “England expects that every man will do his duty.” In recent months, Cruz and Paul have been essentially asking every Republican to do his duty to the Constitution—and to aid them in their battle to limit government and repeal Obamacare.