The brutal and terrifying interrogation scenes in Koestler’s Darkness at Noon are, in some ways, a generational clash. Rubashov, the old revolutionary, is interrogated primarily by two men, Ivanov and Gletkin. Ivanov is a contemporary, a former running mate, and has some sympathy for Rubashov, if not for his apostasy. This sympathy and inability (or unwillingness) to get a confession by any means necessary leads to Ivanov’s own execution. Gletkin has no such hangups, and not out of fear. He’s a child of the Revolution, essentially born into it, and has had his moral compass shaped entirely by the revolutionary rhetoric. He doesn’t just force Rubashov to confess. As Hitchens put it, “Orwell’s more widely read Nineteen Eighty Four, which has many points of similarity with Darkness at Noon, makes the same terrifying point that the fanatics don’t just want you to obey them: They want you to agree with them.”
Anyway, long story short, I think Ted Cruz is actually pretty happy he’s going to lose New York today.
Ted Cruz, as we’ve discussed, is an absolutely fanatical liar. To that, one can argue, so are most politicians, and that is to an extent true. It’s not that the job demands liars to apply; it is that pleasing as many people as possible necessitates some dishonesty. But Cruz is a different animal. He’s someone who, born in 1970, has grown up entirely within the conservative movement, and so is capable of believing and saying the most fantastical things. He believes in a higher morality: that of the Cause, and so any lie is important, needed, and therefore transmogrified by purpose into Truth. The important question for a man like Ted Cruz isn’t whether he believes what he is saying or not; it’s whether you do, and whether that can become votes, and bring the movement (personified, courageously, by one man) into power.
Cruz learned this from the master, Ronald Reagan, whose relationship with facts was completely situational. When he was running against Ford in 1976 (dividing the party and weakening the President; something his high priests never seem to bring up), he would tell the most incredible lies about MIAs, Panama, and the Soviet Union. Distant third-hand stories about Kissinger telling people that he US had to accept being a 2nd-rate power became a Gospel accompanied by thunderous denunciation. Defending Rhodesia and South Africa against hordes of angry natives had nothing to do with race, but was helping black people get freedom. It drove Ford and Kissinger crazy: Reagan would say anything, and he’d be believed by the nascent and growing far right.
What Reagan knew in his jackal heart was that any Ford refutation only strengthened Reagan’s accusations among the right people. Ford was hated, his flacks even more so, and Kissinger most of all (the reasons for the right hating Kissinger are because he sometimes acted like a semi-responsible statesman; for most decent people, it is because he generally acted like a power-obsessed sycophantic amoral war criminal). If Reagan said that Ford was secretly meeting with the Marxist dictator of Panama to give away the canal tomorrow, and Ford said that was ridiculous, that they were re-negotiating long-term rights, and that anyway he was a rightist dictator, that just made Reagan’s point even stronger. Of course the establishment is going to lie to you. Of course we can’t trust anyone who seems like he might be squishy on anything. Even if Ford is telling the truth, it is, essentially, a lie.
That’s what Ted Cruz knows best.Even in an age where lies can be instantly debunked, they still have merit among people who want to believe them. Ted Cruz is a master at this. He knows that his greatest source of strength is his nearly limitless pool of enemies, because those people- from Al Franken to Mitch McConnell, from MSNBC to CNN- are the enemies of his voter pool. For all their fervor, they define themselves by what they are not. While Trump has been a master at playing up inchoate anger, Cruz is a master player of those whose anger has been honed into a fine point by generations of lies, a whetstone of talk radio, internet news bubbles, direct mailings, televangelists, a handsome B-movie actor with a blackness in his center, revolution and chaos. Cruz knows that forcing his enemies to call him a liar just makes him a martyr and a brave truth-teller.
He knows this, because he’s one of them. He has the same resentments and hatreds, and they aren’t a product of will. Older rightists who created the movement, like Newt and Jesse Helms, created slogans and positions. They were ad men with grudges. Cruz has known this world with his first yelping breath. He’s Gletkin.
That’s why he’s ok losing New York today, which he will, big. He can easily point not just to it being Trump’s home state, but to the hated “New York values.” He can say that his rejection there is a point of privilege.
Now, it is pretty easy to say: Ted, this is a closed primary of Republican voters. It isn’t Patti Smith coming out against you. And you can also say that, sure, even if NY city Republicans are more liberal than ones in, say, South Carolina, they aren’t the only Republicans. In 2012, after all, the city made up only some 400,000 votes of the nearly 2.5 million cast for Romney. Maybe it isn’t just the heathens of Manhattan who caused your loss?
That doesn’t matter. Cruz has an enemy, and he wants his voters to see anyone in opposition to him as the godless and anti-American caricature they already want to believe in. That hatred and resentment are the forces that animates the conservative movement, and no one knows it in his bones better than Ted Cruz, because he’s made entirely of it, and he wants you to believe him.