Ted Cruz Vs. Wendy Davis: The (Many) Differences

by Lane Florsheim

A multitude of prominent conservatives took to Twitter Wednesday to express anger at what they saw as a double standard between the media's representation of Texas state Senator Wendy Davis' (D) pro-choice filibuster in June and Senator Ted Cruz's (R-TX) protest of Obamacare that started Tuesday, and ended Wednesday afternoon.

There are, however, numerous differences between the two marathon speeches that are key to understanding why the media's general excitement over Davis and eye-rolling over Cruz makes, well, a lot of sense. Let's explore the differences, shall we?

First and foremost, Cruz was not actually waging a filibuster.

According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) spokesperson, Cruz negotiated the terms of his speech with Reid ahead of time. What's more is that, unlike Davis, Cruz was procedurally limited to stop speaking when a vote that is scheduled for Wednesday mid-day takes place, as CSPAN pointed out.

The bottom line is that Cruz has no chance of stopping the Senate from voting on the bill the House passed to fund the government and defund Obamacare — which, in a not particularly logical twist, is a bill he actually supports. Cruz doesn't want the Senate's Democratic majority to strip the legislation of the measure that defunds Obamacare, but he knows that no amount of grandstanding will actually result in a vote being blocked.

Both politicians wanted to draw attention to different causes, but Cruz and the GOP already had that in spades before taking the Senate podium.

Politico's Dylan Byers argues that symbolically, the Cruz crusade and the Davis filibuster are more or less both trying to accomplish the same thing: showing one's opposition to a bill through a demonstration of physical will. Cruz and Davis both wanted to draw attention to their respective causes and took a dramatic approach to do so.

The difference here is that, arguably, Davis' cause needed increased attention. True, it had received some attention in the national media, but very telling is that her filibuster wasn't initially picked up by a single major network — the Texas Tribune online live stream was the only media outlet that broadcast footage of the filibuster live in its entirety.

On the other hand, the issue Cruz is championing, defunding Obamacare, is not one that has been lacking national attention (see this and this and this, to cite just a few). In the house, his own party voted not once, not twice, but over forty times to defund Obamacare. His is not an issue exactly in need of more attention.

Cruz didn't exactly keep it relevant.

During her filibuster, Davis received three strikes that threatened to end her effort and begin voting on the bill she was attempting to block. Two of the strikes were for failing to stay germane — because she first talked about Planned Parenthood's budget, and then discussed a 2011 sonogram law Texas passed. Confused about why these items aren't relevant to a discussion on abortion? So are we.

True, Cruz isn't governed by the same rules that dictate the strict germaneness of the Texas state Senate, but parts of his speech like, saluting Ashton Kutcher and reading his kids Green Eggs and Ham, seem particularly irrelevant to the fighting against Obamacare.

Cruz tied his Dr. Seuss bedtime story of choice to Obamacare by saying it "has some applicability, as curious as it may sound, to the Obamcare debate," adding that Americans "did not like green eggs and ham, and they did not like Obamacare either."

Per Senator McCaskill, the connection doesn't exactly make sense, since the moral of the story is to not knock something before trying it (not to mention the character in Green Eggs actually ends up liking the dish).

Even more curious is that the entire premise of Cruz's speech is to #makeDClisten to the public who wants Obamacare defunded, when the reality is that the public doesn't actually want Obamacare defunded, and especially doesn't want it defunded if it means a government shutdown.

Cruz's own party didn't support his effort.

Davis' filibuster garnered massive support from Democrats across the board, from her constituents, to her fellow Texas state senators, to President Obama.

Cruz, on the other hand, lost the support of top Senate Republicans and other Congressional Republicans for his choice of tactic. The Atlantic ran some telling quotes Wednesday morning.

From Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace:

As soon as we listed Ted Cruz as our featured guest this week, I got unsolicited research and questions, not from Democrats but from top Republicans, to hammer Cruz. Why are Republicans so angry at Ted Cruz?"

This is how Karl Rove explained it to Wallace:

You cannot build a congressional majority, in either party, for any kind of action, unless you are treating your colleagues with some certain amount of respect, and saying, ‘Hey, what do you think of my idea?’ Instead they have dictated to their colleagues ... and not consulted them about this strategy at all.

Just a little bit different from Davis.