Barbara Jordan v. Ted Cruz
by Bob Schwartz
Regular readers of this blog know about the late Representative Barbara Jordan, one of the great speakers in modern American history, and one of the most distinguished members of Congress in her generation. We have seen few like her in recent years—because there have been few like her at all.
She shares one thing and one thing only with Ted Cruz: both represented Texas citizens in Congress. Besides that, they might as well be from different planets—politically, morally, intellectually, rhetorically, in just about any category you can name.
Barbara Jordan was born and raised in a black district of Houston. To say that she transcended any challenges she faced is saying nothing: her talents and compassion took her to the height of American political respect and significance. Ted Cruz was born in Canada, an apparent embarrassment for him, given that he has renounced his Canadian citizenship. He was raised somewhere, though there is no way to tell that he is “from” Texas other than the designation on his office. He has probably visited Houston, though it doesn’t seem his kind of place.
While at Harvard Law School, Ted Cruz reportedly refused to study with students who did not have undergraduate degrees from Harvard, Princeton or Yale. Even the “minor” Ivy League schools like Penn or Columbia weren’t good enough. Barbara Jordan attended Texas Southern University and then Boston University Law School. Well below minor status. However, she was a national champion debater at Texas Southern, where she beat Yale and Brown, and tied Harvard. And, presumably, would beat Ted Cruz in debate too.
Barbara Jordan was a model of intelligent political pragmatism, toughness tempered by compassion. She believed that character was paramount. Her rhetoric, rated in the range of FDR, JFK and MLK, could be uplifting or withering. She never spoke for twenty-one hours straight because she never had to. But if she had, it might be mesmerizing, start to finish. Ted Cruz is the model of something.
A Senate filled with one hundred Barbara Jordans would not be to everyone’s ideological taste, but no one would worry that they were being hoodwinked or being used as part of someone’s ambitious scheme, or that the country was in existential peril. The nation would be better for it. A Senate filled with one hundred Ted Cruzes is something else—perhaps a sign that beyond just shutting down the government, we should just close the doors on the American enterprise entirely.
We miss you Barbara. And we need you.