Last night, many within the GOP were left aghast when former presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, delivered a national convention speech that didn’t include a political endorsement of the party’s nominee and new leader, Donald Trump.
Instead, Cruz spoke glowingly of conservative principles. He criticized the political status quo and the Washington elite. He warned of the dangers of a Hillary Clinton presidency. He then wrapped up his address with a call for Republican voters not to stay home on election day.
“Vote your conscience,” he told the delegates and guests inside the Quickens Loans Arena, and the millions watching at home.
He was then booed off the stage.
Apparently, voting one’s conscience isn’t compatible with voting for Donald Trump — at least, not in the eyes of many in attendance last night.
The expectation seemed to be that Cruz would let primary-season bygones be bygones, and offer a full-throated endorsement of Trump’s candidacy. Instead, he did exactly what Trump had done for the better part of a year.
Cruz made himself the outsider. He became the wild card. He revoked the same pledge to support the nominee that Trump had revoked back in March. Cruz stuck his thumb right in the eye of the very “GOP establishment” that Trump had championed the wholesale destruction of, in his successful bid for the nomination.
This was Cruz’s “counter punch.” Only, he delivered it with infinitely more class.
Cruz didn’t excoriate the GOP, its donors, or its grassroots activists. He didn’t call anyone derogatory names. He didn’t trash the physical appearance of anyone’s wife. He didn’t link anyone’s father to the JFK assassination. He didn’t compare anyone to a child molester. He didn’t call the party’s last president a war criminal, blame him for 9/11, and insist that he lied about WMDs. He didn’t mock a previous nominee for his capture by enemy combatants while serving our military in war.
What he did was ask people to vote their conscience, rather than obediently drop to his knee before a man guilty of all of the above. And for that, Cruz’s conduct is being deemed disgraceful.
I’ve never been a big Ted Cruz fan. There are a number of things I don’t like about him. But what he did last night was far from disgraceful. The notion that party solidarity and convention etiquette are somehow more sacred than all of the barriers of decency that Trump took a sledgehammer to during the primary (and beyond) is laughable. If anything, those who’ve been hailing Trump’s conduct over the past year as being bold and tough should admire what Cruz did.
Toughness, after all, isn’t handing your dignity over to a guy who trashed your character, your principles, and your family. Toughness is standing up for what you believe in, especially when you know that the same people who cheered your entrance will most certainly boo your exit.