The Right Scoop has a succession of clips covering the whole thing, and if you want to see it click here. Ted Cruz gave a speech this morning to the Texas delegation at the GOP convention, and it was fascinating stuff – particularly once he began taking questions.
Most significant in Cruz’ address was his insistence on something which is true – namely, that he didn’t say a single negative thing about Donald Trump in the speech. And that Newt Gingrich had it precisely right when he interpreted what Cruz said as an endorsement of the Republican nominee whether Cruz did so by name or not.
Cruz also expressed confusion that he would have been booed by Trump partisans for what he said, and wondered aloud whether that means the principles he was talking about are in poor odor among those people.
Then a few Trump partisans in the room started popping off with questions, and things got even more interesting…
Ted Cruz refuses to endorse Donald Trump at convention, tells people to vote their conscience Here's one reason why https://t.co/14T2LHTOoh
— Carolyn Durand (@CarolynDurand) July 21, 2016
Then somebody in the audience admonished him that Trump’s attacks on his family were just “politics,” and that earned a pretty stern rebuke from the Senator…
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 21, 2016
You can consider all this and describe Cruz with words like “petulant” and “butthurt” if you like, and you can join the chorus of people who say that he’s torched his political future.
It’s a free country, and you can say that if you want.
But if Cruz is petulant, he’s also fairly intelligent about it – because it’s hard to argue that a man who carries a grudge over his family members being slandered doesn’t have a good reason to do so, and that argument has two explanations to make. First, why Trump hasn’t bothered to make right the things he said about Cruz’ family by way of an apology if all this was just politics. And second, why it’s OK for the Republican nominee to sink that low but if Cruz denies Trump a full-throated endorsement it’s somehow a poor reflection on Cruz’ character.
Besides, as he noted, if endorsing freedom and the Constitution isn’t endorsing Donald Trump, then why are Republicans supporting Donald Trump? And why is Cruz a bad guy and a crybaby for holding up a mirror to the GOP and asking it to affirm both its principles and its nominee at the same time? Even if you believe Cruz is those things, is it really a dirty trick to imply it’s important to insure the Republican nominee believes Republican things?
As for Cruz’ political future, if your argument is that the events of the last 24 hours will cost him re-election in Texas you’re likely sorely mistaken. He’s never been in any danger of losing that seat, and there is nobody on the horizon there likely to challenge him in a GOP primary. If you’re saying that Cruz won’t win the GOP nomination in 2020, you might be right – but that was always a good possibility.
The fact is that Ted Cruz requires a fairly specific political taste. He’s lawyerly, and most people don’t like lawyers. Cruz doesn’t have a soft side to him; he stakes out a position on principle and sticks to it regardless of the consequences. That’s easy to respect but hard to like. And Cruz is an ideologue who believes that at the end of the day the conservative way will be rewarded; there is almost a religious zeal about him in that respect, which isn’t surprising since it’s his religious faith which drives his conservative ideology.
And Cruz is probably wrong in his political calculations. As this election cycle has shown, there are lots of people out there who call themselves conservatives but neither know what conservatism is nor particularly care about the principles contained in it. Ideological conservatives are a fairly small minority of the electorate, and when they win elections it’s usually because their candidates bring something outside of ideology to the table. Reagan’s conservatism is what made his governance so successful; it’s not what got him elected. What got him elected was his charisma and character. Too many conservatives in politics, likely including Cruz, don’t understand this well enough.
He’s undoubtedly made enemies, and depending on how things go those enemies might be permanent. But Cruz can at least say he was consistent with his principles and leaves Cleveland with his honor and self-respect intact – and frankly, he’s in the minority where that’s concerned.