By going rogue onstage in Cleveland and pointedly refusing to endorse Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz – flawed politician though he may be – put the degenerate, ideologically rootless Republican Party to shame
The speakers on night 3 of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland addressed the thousands of delegates against a giant backdrop of the United States Constitution. Which is pretty ironic considering that the GOP has chosen as its presidential nominee a man whose thin-skinned egotism and frighteningly authoritarian policies betray ignorance of the Constitution at best, and at worst an outright contempt for the founding document.
And in a pointed illustration of the depths to which the Republican Party has sunk – and the long distance it has drifted from anything that can be described as constitutional conservatism – the only speaker to make passionate and convincing reference to the Constitution and to liberty was booed off the stage amid a chorus of hate.
That speaker was Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, runner-up in the Republican presidential primary, whose uncompromising speech and unapologetic refusal to endorse Donald Trump sent delegates into meltdown and utterly eclipsed vice presidential nominee Mike Pence’s speech (the traditional focus of the penultimate evening).
Cruz’s speech was in many ways everything that was missing from this dumpster fire of a party convention. Where the Trumpians were fearful and narrow-minded, Cruz was bold, optimistic and unafraid. Where the Trumpians spoke of enemies within and without, Cruz spoke of that more familiar America which boldly strives for progress, not merely consolidate its losses.
One particular highlight:
But something powerful is happening. We’ve seen it in both parties. We’ve seen it in the United Kingdom’s unprecedented Brexit vote to leave the European Union.
Voters are overwhelmingly rejecting big government. That’s a profound victory.
People are fed up with politicians who don’t listen to them, fed up with a corrupt system that benefits the elites, instead of working men and women.
And if we choose freedom, our future will be brighter.
Freedom will bring back jobs, raise wages.
Freedom will lift people out of dependency, to the dignity of work.
We can do this. 47 years ago today, America put a man on the moon. That’s the power of freedom.
And no, I don’t just like it because Ted Cruz rightly name-checked Brexit as one of this year’s great victories for freedom and smaller government over the establishment and technocracy (although it sure doesn’t hurt).
What’s really appealing here is the sense of optimism, almost entirely missing from speaker after speaker who took the stage to endorse Trump. What’s appealing is the reverence for individual liberty rather than the craven need for an authoritarian strongman to smite our enemies and give us occasional treats.
America is the only country to ever successfully send human beings to the moon. It is the land of possibility, a place which has enchanted me since I was a teenager growing up in suburban Essex, England. So why does Donald Trump’s America seem like a place of threats and crooks and hidden dangers rather than the land of the free and the home of the brave?
But it was this passage which sealed Cruz’s fate in the convention hall:
We deserve leaders who stand for principle. Unite us all behind shared values. Cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect, from everybody.
And to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.
Delegates were already loudly booing and chanting “say it!” and “endorse Trump!” before this point. But after Cruz delivered his final lines any applause was utterly drowned out by jeers and sounds of disapproval.
That is the contempt with which principle, freedom, liberty and the Constitution are unfortunately held by the faction now in charge of the Republican Party. One may rightly castigate the Republican Party of Mitt Romney and John McCain and George W. Bush for their sometimes empty paeans of praise to these high-minded ideals. But at least they spoke of them. At least they somehow sensed that they were important.
Not Trump. Donald Trump doesn’t promise personal freedom. He promises a chimerical wonderland of economic and physical security which is totally beyond his power to guarantee, all at the low, low cost of accepting the Donald’s pick ‘n mix attitude towards the Bill of Rights. It’s a dodgy, contemptible deal, but it is a bargain willingly struck by speaker after speaker as they fall in line and give him their endorsement.
Two more otherwise promising Republican governors debased themselves last night – Florida governor Rick Scott and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Add their names to the roll call of household name Republicans who have bent the knee to Donald Trump and there are very few well-credentialed conservative Republicans who will be able to help dig the party out of the rubble of defeat to Hillary Clinton in November.
Which, of course, is exactly why Ted Cruz made his gambit in the first place.
Jeremy Carl writes approvingly in the National Review:
Ultimately, Cruz’s performance in the hall outlined his strongest political quality: his courage, a virtue that, ironically, he shares to some degree with his Trumpian nemesis. For those of us who believe that courage is the virtue we will need most if we are to have any chance of effectively challenging liberalism’s false premises and rolling back its cultural hegemony, that courage is the reason we can make peace with Cruz, whatever his other flaws.
[..] But it is a far more human and admirable courage than Trump’s hyper-confident bluster. This is not to suggest that Cruz is not a calculating politician (indeed he is, far more than most). Nor does it deny that he may well bear some responsibility for other behaviors that have not endeared him to his Senate colleagues. But after all of the calculating is done, Senator Cruz, more than any other national Republican, is willing to go out alone and defend an unpopular conservative position when doing so may have substantial personal and political costs.
“It was the glory of this man that he could stand alone with the truth and calmly await the result,” said Frederick Douglass at the funeral of his fellow radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who first took up the cause at a time when it was deeply unpopular. While the stakes of Cruz’s speech, significant though they were, pale in comparison with the battles fought by Douglass and Garrison, the core principles Douglass stated apply equally. And in this case, the truth, whether or not the delegates in Cleveland wanted to hear it, is that Donald Trump, whatever virtues and vices he may have, and regardless of whatever GOP officialdom wants to pretend, is not a conservative, at least in the way that Americans have thought of conservatism over the last several decades. Ted Cruz didn’t join #NeverTrump yesterday. But he did declare that he wasn’t going to pretend that Trump’s record was something it wasn’t.
Senator Cruz’s decision was clearly unpopular with many GOP delegates and insiders in Cleveland. But for many in the wider political world outside the convention hall, Lyin’ Ted became Lion Ted on Wednesday night. And 2016 will likely not be the last time we’ll hear his roar.
This blog is no great cheerleader for Ted Cruz, a man whose prickly public persona tests the saying “principles before personalities” to the uttermost limit. But my God, he is a better Republican presidential candidate than Donald Trump. At least he is actually a conservative.
That’s not to say that this blog scorns all Donald Trump supporters or absolves mainstream conservatives of their responsibility for creating the Trump phenomenon in the first place. Far from it. The vast majority of Trump supporters are kind, decent people with entirely legitimate grievances against a self-serving political class which has failed them for years, even decades.
But that doesn’t make Donald Trump the right solution. It certainly does nothing to detract from the fact that Trump is a calamity for the Republican Party, who are now paying in a lump for their years of corruption and degeneracy.
Tonight Donald Trump will take the stage in Cleveland and accept the Republican Party’s nomination for the presidency of the United States. By some accounts his acceptance speech is good, even dangerously good.
I don’t see this ending well.
Top Image: The Federalist
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