RNC 2016: Republican National Convention – Night 3 Summary

Ted Cruz - RNC - Republican National Convention Cleveland - Donald Trump - 2016

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.

 

 

RNC - Republican National Convention - Cleveland - Quicken Loans Arena Floor

Top Image: The Federalist

Support Semi-Partisan Politics with a one-time or recurring donation:

Agree with this article? Violently disagree? Scroll down to leave a comment.

Follow Semi-Partisan Politics on TwitterFacebook and Medium.

Advertisements

ObamaCare, Four Years After Signing

obamacare

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as the ACA or ObamaCare – was signed into law four years ago this week after tortuous rounds of planning, posturing, arm-twisting and televised negotiating in Washington.

And while many of the features (to say either ‘benefits’ or ‘drawbacks’ immediately displays one’s political bias) of ObamaCare are only now taking effect, this is a good moment to take stock, step back from the thrust and parry of partisan bickering and reflect on what has actually happened since America decided – with the GOP kicking and screaming defiance to the bitter end – that as a country they would no longer tolerate the spectacle of millions of people without health insurance or reliable access to preventive medicine.

Tea Party darling Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas – who fancies himself an intellectual heavyweight and a man of deep principle – took the opportunity to reflect by posing a question to the public on his Facebook page:

tedcruz1

 

Perhaps surprisingly, given the likely political leanings of a Ted Cruz facebook follower, the majority – the real, undeniable, vast majority – of responses to Cruz’s question are unabashedly, overwhelmingly in favour of ObamaCare.

The following responses are the most recent as of the time of writing, and are entirely representative of the rest:

tedcruz2

 

The warmth of these responses to the effect of ObamaCare – some from staunch Republicans – is quite arresting, and really reveals the gap between the GOP rhetoric on healthcare reform and the way it is perceived by many of those directly impacted.

This is not to say that there are not dissenters among those who answered Ted Cruz’s question on facebook – there are plenty. But the fact that they are in such a minority (and that they often failed to directly answer the question in terms of impact on their finances or lives) again exposes a fundamental weakness in the Republican party’s full-throated opposition to the bill.

While there are certainly – as with any major legislation – those who have lost out as a result of ObamaCare, either through having to change their healthcare plan, pay a higher premium or lose some other benefit – for every one of these cases, there seem to be other people being rescued from catastrophic personal and financial ruin or uninsurability. It is quite telling that when Ted Cruz opened the floor to the public to make their voices heard – without the controlling hand of opinion pollsters or leading questions in focus groups – the message painted was overwhelmingly positive.

The GOP has long tried to paint the passing of ObamaCare as the sudden imposition of socialism on America (conveniently forgetting huge programs such as MediCare for seniors, which are real, tangible socialism in action) against the will of the people and the founding values of the nation. In GOP-world, everyone is a small business owner or unspecified “wealth creator” being taxed to death in order to fund this extravagant giveaway by the “takers”. The real world, as glimpsed through the windows of Ted Cruz’s Facebook page, appears to contradict this worldview.

With ObamaCare, as with most big policies, there is merit in the arguments of both supporters and detractors. President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement is not without multiple flaws, but those who oppose it undermine themselves by the fact that they made no effort to tackle the glaring problems in America’s healthcare system – sometimes laughably called the “greatest in the world” by ignorant people who have never set foot outside the United States – before Obama took office, and then decided to adopt a position of total, unwavering obstruction once reform efforts got underway – even denying and repudiating policies and ideas once favoured by their own side as conservative reforms.

The Republicans could very well win total control of Congress at the midterms this November, and then go on to win back the presidency in 2016. If they do so, they will have to decide – and admit to the world – how much of their opposition to ObamaCare is real and principled, and how much was political posturing and pandering to the base. And the measure of this will be the provisions that they seek to repeal and those which they keep.

If the Republicans want to be a serious party of government again – and sadly, there is currently very little sign that they do, even though America sorely needs a sane right-wing voice as part of her political discourse again – they will have to confront people like those who shared their positive stories of ObamaCare on Ted Cruz’s Facebook wall, and tell them precisely which of their newfound securities will be ripped away, and why.

Over 7 million Americans have now signed up for health insurance through the various ObamaCare exchanges. If the Republican Party is to regain power, it must face a political day of reckoning with each and every one of them.

“Patriot” Watch, Ctd. 7 – Jim Crow Edition

There has not been a “Patriot” Watch post on Semi-Partisan Sam for several months now, but this does not mean that America’s true patriots (ha) have been derelict in their duties. And by “duties”, I mean their habit of saying ever more outrageous things, associating themselves with thoroughly debunked ideologies and individuals, and generally causing embarrassment to mainstream conservatives who doesn’t necessarily view every implementation of an Obama policy as a call to reach for their muskets and tri-corner hats to march to Washington.

Honoring America...
Honoring America…

Salon Magazine has been keeping tabs, and has published a list of what they call “seven crazy right wing statements” that took place in just the past seven days. It is not an edifying spectacle:

1. Ted Cruz: We need 100 more like Jesse Helms in the Senate

2. Glenn Beck: War is a progressive idea so I am now against it

3. Alex Jones: Globalist cyborgs are coming

4. Stuart Varney and Monica Crowley: EPA is trying to suffocate children

5. Minnesota archbishop: Satan is behind gay marriage

6. Texas GOP gov. candidate tweets that Wendy Davis is “too stupid to be governor.”

7. Internet advice from a nobody who wants to ruin perfect strangers’ lives: Dads, don’t educate your daughters!

Readers can delve into each of these gems at their own leisure; for the purposes of this entry I will focus on just one – Senator Ted Cruz’s unfortunate speech at a Heritage Foundation event honouring the late Senator Jesse Helms. Salon sums up Helms’ character and accomplishments thus:

For those who don’t remember, here are some of the fun-filled, wacky things Helms said and did:

  • He sang the confederate anthem “Dixie” in an elevator with Carol Moseley-Braun, the African-American senator from Illinois, and told Sen. Orrin Hatch in front of her that he was trying to make her cry.
  • He opposed integration, or “mixing of the races,” and called the University of North Carolina the “University of Negroes and Communists” because it was integrated.
  • He led a one-man, 16-day filibuster opposing the designation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a holiday, and threatened to lead one to save South African apartheid.
  • More comically, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he seemed unable to absorb the fact that the North Korean president’s name was Kim Jong Il, not Kim Jong 2.
  • Unlike other like-minded Southern politicians Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, Helms never disavowed his racist, segregationist views even on his deathbed in 2008.

And this is the man that Ted Cruz chose to praise. In public.

Children, never meet your heroes. Never meet them, for you are bound to be disappointed. This blog has been an unabashed supporter of the likes of former Texas congressman Ron Paul and his son, Kentucky senator Rand Paul, for some time. Frankly, their libertarian, small government message and advocacy for the “real people” as opposed to the moneyed and powerful special interest and elites is a very attractive political quality, albeit one that is dulled somewhat by their obsession with gold and abolishing the Federal Reserve.

But it seems that every time a seemingly viable libertarian-leaning politician emerges on the scene, they manage to torpedo themselves by doing something terribly naive, untoward or downright foolish. In the case of Paul Sr. we had the racist articles in the Ron Paul Newsletter, and in the case of Ted Cruz, the latest rising libertarian star, we now have recorded video footage of him praising an unrepentant racist and segregationist politician for going to Washington D.C. and “saying crazy things”.

Rachel Maddow does a good a job as any of expressing revulsion at Cruz’s decision to praise Helms in such a way:

 

With the Republican Party today, it always seems to be one step forward followed by two steps back. There were initially hopes after the 2012 election that the GOP might revise its stance on immigration reform so as to avoid demographic suicide in the coming decades, but this was swiftly followed by derogatory talk of latino “wetbacks” and children with “calves the size of cantaloupes” (from hauling drugs across the border, apparently) coming from elected Republican lawmakers.

Similarly, with the (at least partial) discrediting of the big-government, big-spending, deficits-be-damned, hawkish neo-conservative wing of the Republican party, it seemed as though an influx of new voices (such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) might lead the GOP to a more appealing, sustainable stance in favour of protecting the rights of the average person rather than the moneyed special interest. One step forward. But, of course, this was followed by lots of shrieking about the unstoppable tide of Obamaist socialism in America, and coddling up to birthers and out-and-out racists. Two steps back.

Not enough people for the GOP to win a national majority again.
Not enough people for the GOP to win a national majority again.

Most of the reasons that this stance is so attractive to Republicans in the short term but so decisively in the medium to long terms have already been covered on this blog and elsewhere. But one angle that perhaps has not been discussed enough is the off-putting effect that these unsavoury positions have on younger voters. We have already seen the GOP reduce their opposition to gay marriage in light of its growing approval, seeming inevitability and support among young people.

Senators Cruz et al. would do well to remember that young people are also, generally speaking, not great fans of racism, segregation or Jim Crow laws, and that speaking at events honouring dead politicians who unabashedly supported all of these things is terrible, terrible PR for the party among new and future voters.

I beg the GOP, as someone who is naturally conservative and libertarian, and would have voted Republican in a previous age – courting the fringe as you are doing now is not worth the damage you are doing to the country, the two-party system or your own future political prospects.

Unimpeachable

The blogger MyKeyStrokes writes an excellent piece trying to dissect the American right wing’s newfound, fruitless obsession with the idea of impeaching President Obama.

Yeah, that's not going to happen.
Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

Essentially, those elected GOP officials and conservative pundits who peddle this impeachment talk know that there is zero chance of making this outcome a reality – but of course, that was never their aim:

Sometimes politics is like high-stakes poker. If you look around the table after a few hands and you can’t tell who’s the pigeon, citizen, chances are it’s you: the guy who plunked down $26.95 for a book called Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barack Obama from Office.

Yeah, you with the “Impeach Obama” bumpersticker on your car. The guy standing on a freeway overpass waving a “Honk for Impeachment” sign. You may as well go around in a little bird’s nest hat, like Donald Duck’s eccentric friend Gyro Gearloose.

Because it not only ain’t going to happen, but the people peddling this nonsense don’t even want it to happen. Not really. They’re just making a buck off people who can’t count and running a classic misdirection play.

Yes. Making a quick buck by whipping scared people into a furious rage, and then either selling them products that help to reinforce their End Times beliefs (Obama wants to destroy America! We are now a socialist country!) or leveraging their support to achieve higher political office.

As MyKeyStrokes sees it, however, this is potentially good news for any centrist or Democratic-leaning voter, because the more preoccupied the GOP becomes with the alluring mirage of seeing President Obama impeached, the more they inadvertently reveal that they have given up hope of passing any of their agenda (see the 40 pointless votes to repeal ObamaCare in the House of Representatives as just one shining example):

Like it or not, the possibility of repealing “Obamacare” ended when the Supreme Court found it Constitutional and the president won re-election. You’d think after 40 — count ’em, 40 — fruitless votes to abort the law, that message might start to sink in. We still have majority rule in this country.

But no, it hasn’t sunk in at all. Like a baseball team demanding to play the eighth game of the World Series, GOP hardliners have come up with yet another plan to force the president’s hand. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has called for something he infelicitously called a “grassroots tsunami” to make Obama relent.

Whether the GOP’s current malaise is a good or bad thing largely depends on one’s own political leanings, or the importance that one attaches to having a functioning two-party system where neither party is beholden to an intractable, crazy political base. Personally, as someone who advocates for smaller government and empowering the citizen over the state (and consequently very much against the recent assaults on the First and Fourth Amendments by the Bush and Obama administrations), I find it disheartening to find myself frequently having to side with Democrats because the other side are, more often than not, acting in a totally nihilistic, immature manner.

It was bad enough when this childish behaviour (“I didn’t get my way, so now I’m taking my toys and leaving, and refusing to cooperate or compromise in the business of government”) was limited to the House of Representatives, but now we see this reality-denial infecting the Senate as well. Both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are rising stars in the GOP, and both have some degree of promise. Certainly neither of them are stupid. And yet they both seek to burnish their conservative credentials by playing chicken with the US debt ceiling again, and failing to call out the crazies from among their supporters who have persuaded themselves to believe that a twice-elected president pursuing his political agenda is somehow akin to “high crimes and misdemeanors” worthy of impeachment:

At a recent town hall meeting in Muskogee, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, ostensibly a personal friend of the president’s, answered a constituent’s question about impeachment by allowing as how “those are serious things, but we’re in serious times. And I don’t have the legal background to know if that rises to ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ but I think you’re getting perilously close.”

Campaigning in Texas, Senator Cruz responded to a constituent who asked, “Why don’t we impeach him?” by saying, “It’s a good question.”

No. It isn’t a good question. It’s a dumb question. Ted Cruz graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, and assuming he wasn’t high during his constitutional law lectures, understands perfectly well that Obama has not committed any impeachable offense any more than have the previous eight or so presidents.

cruzpalin

But impeachment is not the goal. The business of governing through compromise is not the goal. Even the full enactment of their declared conservative agenda is not the goal (Republicans will rail against dependence on government but would never risk the wrath of the AARP by voting to abolish the socialised medicine that is MediCare). So what is the goal?

Money and/or Political Power.

And all of those saps “honking to impeach” Obama are playing right into their hands.