In much the same way that then-candidate Donald Trump took hold of Twitter and refused to let go until it propelled him to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has happened upon a web-based vehicle that is pushing him not only to the No. 1 podcasting spot in America but also perhaps to the White House in 2024. In less than the space of a week, The Verdict With Ted Cruz has topped the Apple podcast charts and achieved more than 500,000 unique downloads. What is the Texas senator selling?
The word “dissection,” from the Latin root dissecare (to cut to pieces), is precisely what the senator offers his listeners. In each episode, he breaks down the impeachment arguments being made by Democrat managers in a form that is not available from or attempted by many news outlets.
Part soapbox pitch, part interview, the podcast not only addresses the specific points being argued but also discusses how arguments of fallacy are made. Yet the real gold is in the nuggets that only an insider can give. Cruz talks about what the other senators do while the long process continues. He describes the antsy back-of-the-room maneuverings of certain senators who are itching to get back to Iowa or, as Cruz states, being stuck in the chamber is “driving them batcrap crazy.”
It is no secret that voters and viewers are turning off the impeachment proceedings in droves; there’s only so much that even a fairly interested spectator can handle before the monotony and repetition begin to overwhelm the sensibilities. And this is the niche that Cruz is trying to make his own. He says:
“With all the noise, with all the division we have right now, I think there’s a real hunger for substance… Most people don’t have time to turn on C-SPAN and watch 13 hours of impeachment proceedings. The idea of the podcast is something easy, that someone can download and listen on the way to work in the morning.”
Perhaps the main reason for the podcast’s early success is that Cruz openly courts feedback on how he should frame his queries when the 16-hour questions segment comes up in the trial. He appears to offer listeners direct input into one of the biggest constitutional events of our age, and that is an offer very few can refuse.
One has to wonder how much influence Cruz, himself a lawyer, has over the Trump defense team; it seems that each episode lays out many of the key points argued the following day. But is this just a flash in the pan for the Texas senator or the start of a public notoriety campaign that will pave the way for a 2024 presidential bid?
The Trump presidency has used the internet in a singularly effective manner, bypassing normal media streams that often have an anti-Trump agenda. As successful podcasts prove, again and again, Americans do not need news condensed into easy-to-digest tidbits or soundbites; they can handle long-form if it is interesting content. Cruz may be on the cusp of opening up a whole new battlefield of public-political discourse, and, as always, it’s the frontrunner who has the early advantage.
Read more from Mark Angelides.