Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Two ambitious senators have the opportunity to stop a pompous would-be tyrant from destroying the republic. To do so, they need to team up and take him down on the Ides of March.
When Shakespeare wrote his “Julius Caesar,” it was a classic example of art imitating life. With a wink at the audience, Shakespeare even has one of the conspirators say, “How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over, in states unborn and accents yet unknown.” But in spring 2016, we have the reverse: Life imitating art.
Or rather, Life being a writer on “Days of Our Lives” who decides to simply repeat with exactitude the plot from an earlier season. This is art come to life, Shakespeare’s “Caesar” on the American stage.
In this version of the play, Ted Cruz plays the part of Cassius: “lean and hungry,” lamenting that America “hast lost the breed of noble bloods.” The fault, says Cassius Cruz, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. He knows Julius Trump would not be a wolf but that he sees the Americans are sheep. Marco Rubio is cast as the noble Brutus, the one man in whose power it lies to stop Julius Trump from wrecking the republic.
The similarities between the Bard’s play and the present day are uncanny. I can almost picture Trump, standing on a stage refusing a small (but very classy) crown. “Danger knows full well that Trump is more dangerous than he, believe me. Danger knows. Danger knows. And no one is more constant than me. No one. Maybe the North Star. Maybe. But I gotta tell you, the North Star gets hidden behind the clouds. It’s true. It happens. But no cloud ever hides me. I can promise you that. Always I am Trump.”
The Day of Reckoning: March 15
Great books, at their best, give us new eyes to see the world. In this case, Shakespeare’s “Caesar” exceeds the best. It doesn’t just help us see the world. It gives us a blueprint. Already the drama is being staged. In Shakespeare’s play, citizens of Rome send letters to Brutus, expressing their admiration for him and urging him to do something about Caesar’s ambition. Already in our day those letters are being written to our own Brutus Rubio: Erick Erickson, Jen Rubin, and Guy Benson (among others).
What’s more, Providence has given us the day of reckoning next Tuesday, March 15, otherwise known as the Ides of March. On that day, Trump will go forth. He will meet the senators, and the fate of the conservative movement and the Republican Party may well be decided.
Senator Brutus Rubio has the opportunity to play his part. And he doesn’t even need to bring his dagger. Instead, he simply needs to join with Cruz as his running mate and sweep to victory.
If he doesn’t, if the Ides of March comes and goes with the senators divided, then instead of the Bard’s version, we likely get the bizarro Shakespeare in which Brutus shivs Cassius in front of Caesar before retiring to Punta Gorda, the envious Casca wins Ohio and then commits suicide, and Trump Caesar accepts the party’s coronet then goes on to lose the general election to Lady Macbeth. This election will then truly be “a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
This Tragedy Can Yet Be Averted
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Nor does it have to end the way the Bard’s version does (with Brutus and Cassius defeated before the armies of Caesar’s successors). If Rubio can show the nobility of his mettle by putting principle and party above his presidential ambitions, then conservatives and Republicans have a place to rally. So far as I can see, there’s no Octavius or Antony to “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.”
However, if the Republican Party does manage to take the nomination from a dominant Trump at the convention, then the spirit of Trump will range for revenge with Ate by his side come hot from hell. I suspect it’ll look something like Act Three, Scene Three of Shakespeare’s play, with angry mobs tearing people apart simply because they have the same name as the conspirators (This means watch out, Ricky Rubio, or they’ll tear you for your missed free throws).
There’s still time. The Ides of March has not yet come. Even if, as it appears, Rubio sticks it out through Florida, he can still show the mettle of his pasture by consolidating the field next Wednesday, win or lose. This story doesn’t have to be a tragedy. It can be a comedy (All’s Well that Ends Well). Or maybe a history play, with Rubio and Cruz going “once more unto the breach.” Or even a romance, with conservatives “assail’d with fortune fierce and keen, Virtue preserved from fell destruction’s blast, Led on by heaven, and crown’d with joy at last.”
But in order for that to happen, Rubio must lay down his ambition and unite the party, either by the Ides of March or the day after. There is no time to lose.
A parting thought from Rubio’s Shakespearean doppelganger.
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
The current is serving, senator. Take the tide, and lead the country on to fortune.