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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST:

But, first, here’s my take. The crisis has been resolved, but this respite is temporary. We’re bound to have more standoffs and brinkmanship in the months and years ahead. To understand why, you must recognize that, for the tea party, the stakes could not be higher.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz put it plainly at the recent Values Voter Summit in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We’re nearing the edge of a cliff, and our window to turn things around, my friends, I don’t think it is long. I don’t think it’s 10 years. We have a couple of years to turn the country around or we go off the cliff to oblivion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: Cruz dominated the summit’s straw poll, taking 42 percent of the vote, more than three times his nearest rival. Cruz’s national approval rating might be an abysmal 14 percent, but to the base of the Republican Party, he’s an idol.

The current fear derives from Obamacare and what it will do to America, but that is only the most recent cause for alarm. Modern American conservatism was founded on a diet of despair.

In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. began the movement with a famous first editorial in National Review declaring that the magazine “stands athwart history, yelling stop.” Hardline conservatives have been yelling stop ever since.

John Boehner tries to tie into this tradition of opposition when he says in exasperation repeated, “The federal government has spent more than what it has brought in in 55 of the last 60 years.”

But, one might respond, what have been the results over these past 60 years? The United States has grown mightily, destroyed the Soviet Union, spread capitalism across the globe and lifted its citizens to astonishingly high standards of living and income.

At the end of his 1961 speech that launched his political career, Ronald Reagan said,

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if you don’t do this and if I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: But the menace Reagan warned about, Medicare, was enacted. It’s provided security to the elderly. There have been problems regarding cost, but that is hardly the same as killing freedom.

After all, the right-wing Heritage Foundation ranks many countries as “more free” every year. For example, Switzerland and Australia and they all have universal health care.

For many conservatives today, the “rot” to be excoriated is not about economics and health care but about culture. A persistent theme of conservative intellectuals and commentators, in print and on Fox News, is the cultural decay of the country.

But compared with almost any period in U.S. history, we live in bourgeois times, in a culture that values family, religion, work and, above all, private business.

Young people today aspire to become Mark Zuckerberg. They quote the aphorisms of Warren Buffett. They read the Twitter feed of Bill Gates. Even after the worst recession since the Great Depression, there are no obvious radicals, anarchists, Black Panthers or other revolutionary movements except for the tea party.

Now, for some tacticians and consultants, extreme rhetoric is just a way to keep the troops fired up. But rhetoric gives meaning and shape to a political movement.

Over the past six decades, conservatives’ language of decay, despair and decline have created a powerful group of Americans who fervently believe in this dark narrative and are determined to stop the country from plunging into what they see is imminent oblivion. They aren’t going to give up just yet. The era of crises could end, but only when this group of conservatives makes its peace with today’s America. They are misty- eyed in their devotion to a distant republic of myth and memory and yet passionate in their dislike of the messy, multiracial, capitalist and welfare-state democracy that America actually has been for half a century, a fifth of this country’s history.

At some point, will they come to recognize that you cannot love America in theory and hate it in fact?

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1310/20/fzgps.01.html

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