I usually go to my local health club in the evening, generally arriving a little bit after 8. I'll spend time on the treadmill and I usually watch television while I'm there. Most nights, the easiest thing to watch is old episodes of "Family Feud" on the Game Show Network, which seems to run in a continuous loop most nights.
On Wednesday nights, GSN runs a different show that I don't particularly enjoy, so last night I left the television on the station where it was. And so I got to see Ted Cruz's speech at the Republican National Convention.
Cruz rolled the dice last night. Endorsing The Donald would have been the easy thing to do -- Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, two prominent rivals of Cruz, did so, although without evident enthusiasm. Cruz didn't endorse. Instead, he spoke for 22 minutes about freedom, and conscience. A taste:
America is more than just a land mass between two oceans, America is an ideal. A simple, yet powerful ideal. Freedom matters.By the end of the speech, it became clear to the delegates in the hall that "better" didn't necessarily mean Donald Trump:
For much of human history government power has been the unavoidable constant in life. Government decrees and the people obey, but not here. We have no king or queen, we have no dictator, we the people constrain government.
Our nation is exceptional because it was built on the five most beautiful and powerful words in the English language, "I want to be free."
Never has that message been more needed than today. We stand here tonight a nation divided. Partisan rancor, anger, even hatred are tearing America apart. And citizens are furious, rightly furious, at a political establishment that cynically breaks its promises, and that ignores the will of the people.
We have to do better. We owe our fallen heroes more than that.
We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who 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.Is Donald Trump such a candidate? While Cruz didn't say so explicitly, the speech suggests he doesn't believe the GOP standard-bearer lives up to the standard.
If you love our country, and love our children as much as you do, 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.
Ted Cruz, in his own way and own style, is perhaps even more of a polarizing figure than Donald Trump. The GOP establishment may grumble about Trump's various apostasies, but they do believe they can do business with him. The Mitch McConnells of the world are, at bottom, transactional politicians and Trump made his bones as a dealmaker, so it's understandable that McConnell and his ilk can make common cause with The Donald.
The paradox of Ted Cruz is that while he speaks the language of conservatism, he is an apostate in the party that ostensibly carries the conservative banner in this country. The further paradox of Ted Cruz is that his ambition and his beliefs are at variance with one another. I suspect a lot of people can't get with him because of this second paradox. Cruz is either the real thing, or he's even a larger charlatan than Trump, who doesn't much bother to pretend he believes in much of anything other than himself. If you support Cruz, it's also a roll of the dice.
Donald Trump will either win or lose this election regardless of what Ted Cruz says, or doesn't say. If Trump wins, Cruz will be in the outer darkness. If Trump loses, Cruz will be in the mix in 2020. The interesting question for the GOP electorate would be this -- do you admire Cruz more, or do you admire the approach of Scott Walker, who did endorse Trump? Are you more loyal to principle, or to process? Or do you have to value both? The question may become relevant on or about November 9.