Ted Cruz’s 21-hour Speech: Political Game-Changer or PR Stunt?

By Emily Pirt, Communications Committee

On Tuesday, September 24, Senator Ted Cruz, a Tea-Party Republican from Texas, took the floor of the Senate in an effort to gain support from his fellow Republicans to defund Obamacare. If successful, Cruz and Co. would have caused a shutdown of the government. Cruz’s stand came quite close to the voting deadline for a spending plan that would avoid the shutdown. In fact, merely hours after his speech ended, Cruz and the rest of the Senate were voting on the issue.

Cruz, a “freshman” Senator this year, was elected by the citizens of Texas for his pledge to “shrink government, especially the new health care law”, according to CNN.com. Wanting to live up to his promise, Cruz set out on an ambitious task, vowing to speak on the issue “until I am no longer able to stand.”

Cruz took the floor at approximately 2:40 p.m. and spoke throughout the night for a total of 21 hours. Although the initial topic was Obamacare, the Senator was found discussing other unusual topics such as Saturday Night Live, his love of White Castle burgers and his wishes to become a pirate one day. The Senator even took the time to read Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham to his daughters while relating it to the Republican reception of Obamacare, albeit tangentially. Now the entire work is now on Congressional record at the Capitol.

In the wee hours of the morning on the 25th, Cruz began an intense “Question and Answer” session with fellow Republican, Mike Lee. Notable questions included: How long was the Hundred Years War? Where do Chinese gooseberries come from? and Where were Panama hats created?

Cruz, answering the questions, informed the nation that they are 116 years, New Zealand, and Ecuador, respectively.

As the senator neared the home stretch of his speech, he made an elaborate analogy comparing Washington to the Empire, and his push to defund Obamacare as being the rebel alliance from Star Wars. Cruz even went as far as to reference the famous line by Darth Vader: “I wondered if at some point we would see a tall gentleman in a mechanical breathing apparatus come forward and say in a deep voice `Mike Lee I am your father.’

It seems that all of Senator Cruz’s work was for naught, though. In the end, Cruz voted with the other 99 Senators to pass the spending budget, allowing revisions to be made to Obamacare later down the line.

This action begs the question: Why would Ted Cruz waste 21 hours of his life speaking to a virtually empty Senate chamber about something he would turn around and disregard in less than two hours after finishing his speech?

The answer is clear: public relations.

Although most view the House of Representatives and the Senate to be a solely legal body, a good deal of the work done on Capitol Hill resembles that of the public relations industry. Think about it: most Senators work to please their constituents and maintain a good relationship with them. Many use multiple social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to communicate with their audiences, similar to how public relations consultants would.

Cruz, realizing the deck was stacked against him, did not bother to think about the fruitlessness of his attempt to turn the tide on Obamacare. Instead, he spent the better part of a day voicing his opinion on the subject, while throwing multiple superfluous (yet hilarious) pop culture tangents into this speech. This kept his audience interested, as well as helped him make headlines to promote not only himself, but his cause.

Due to his bold and colorful speech, Cruz has gained more support from his conservative grass roots followers, which could help him in a future run for president. On Twitter there were many supporters of Cruz using the hashtag #MakeDCListen.

Popular supporters included Glenn Beck, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin. The latter of whom, sent her support around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night: “Stay strong @SenTedCruz! Wear comfortable shoes. As we did for Rand Paul, fortifying caribou jerky is on its way #KeepCruzing #MakeDCListen.”

On the other hand, many Republicans were against Cruz’s stunt and deemed it a waste of time. This could hurt Cruz come election time because he might not have the backing (and more importantly, funding) of the GOP.

The White House managed to get its two cents in as well by tweeting: “#MakeDCListen to the 6.3 million seniors who are paying less for prescription drugs thanks to#Obamacare.”

Regardless of whether Cruz is seen as the “Luke Skywalker” or the “Darth Vader” in his story, one thing is for certain: although Cruz’s mission did not succeed, it does not mean he did not set himself up for future success politically. By utilizing his public relations skills Ted Cruz was able to keep support among his constituents high, as well as ensure he would be headline news for at least for 21 hours.

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